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Professor Carl Watkins

Professor Carl Watkins is a medieval historian who works on religious culture in the central and later middle ages, especially on beliefs about, and conceptualisations of, the supernatural.

Dr Carl Watkins was born in Warwickshire and educated at a local comprehensive before going up to Cambridge in 1990 where he read history as an undergraduate and completed a PhD in medieval religious and cultural history, concentrating on the twelfth and thirteen centuries.


Research Interests

Carl Watkins carries out research into religious culture in the later middle ages and is especially interested in beliefs about, and conceptualisations of, the supernatural in this period. His work encompasses the methodological problems of studying medieval religion, 'high' theological change and 'popular' beliefs about the afterlife and ghosts, angels and demons, miracles and divine signs. He has written about concepts of sinfulness and the emergence of purgatory, has completed a book for Cambridge University Press which explores beliefs about the supernatural in a medieval English context and has, more recently, explored beliefs about the dead during the middle ages (and beyond) in a wider-ranging book published by Bodley Head. He has written also written a short biography of King Stephen (for the ‘Penguin Monarchs’ series).


MA, PhD.

Selected Publications

Stephen, Penguin Monarchs (2015)

The Undiscovered Country: journeys among the dead, The Bodley Head (2013).

'Landscape and Belief in Anglo-Norman England', Anglo-Norman Studies 35 (2013).

Debating the Good Death: a long view’ (History and Policy Opinion Article, 2013).

‘Religion and Belief’ in A Social History of England, 900-1200, ed. Elisabeth van Houts and Julia Crick, Cambridge University Press (2011).

‘Providence, Experience and Doubt in the Middle Ages’, in Fictions of Knowledge: Fact, Evidence, Doubt, ed. S. Mukherji, Y. Batsaki and J.-M. Schramm, Palgrave (2011).

‘Fascination and Anxiety in Medieval Wonder Stories’, in The Unorthodox Imagination in Late Medieval Britain, ed. Sophie Page (MUP, 2010), 45-65.

History and the Supernatural in Medieval England, Cambridge University Press (2007).

‘“Folklore” and “Popular Religion” in Medieval Britain,’ Folk-Lore, 115, (2004), 140-50.

'Sin, Penance and Purgatory in the Anglo-Norman Realm: the evidence of visions and ghost stories', Past and Present (2002).

‘Memories of the Marvellous in the Anglo-Norman Realm’, Medieval Memories: men, women and the past in the middle ages, ed. E.M.C van Houts, Longman (2001), 92-112.

‘Doctrine, Politics and Purgation: the Vision of Tnúthgal and the Vision of Owein at St Patrick’s Purgatory’ in Journal of Medieval History, 22 (1997), 225-36.