Writing technologies in transition: Legal and literary material practices in late medieval England

Applications are invited for an Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC DTP-funded Collaborative Doctoral Award at the University of Cambridge, in partnership with The National Archives. This fully-funded studentship is available from October 2022 and can be taken up on either a full or part-time basis. Further details about the value of an Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC DTP award are available on our Studentships page

Closing date: 6 January 2022 (12:00am, midnight, UK time)

Project overview

Photograph showing a Recorda file from the National Archives

A Recorda file, The National Archives

© The National Archives

During the Middle Ages, parchment (animal skin) was the material of choice for many activities which required permanent and ephemeral writing: record keeping, making transactions, documenting legal practices and transmitting knowledge. From surviving archival evidence, however, it is clear that paper circulated in parchment cultures, such as the medieval legal and administrative systems in this period.

This collaborative studentship will explore links between the use and the status of paper within administrative and legal circles, and paper in book production in medieval England.  The focus of the research will be the Recorda files of the King’s Bench (The National Archives’ series KB145), which preserve legal evidence collected by local courts, and was brought into the superior courts at Westminster. Through this project a student will have the opportunity to enhance understanding of medieval materiality and develop new perspectives on the study of medieval paper in administration and literature.

This is a collaborative studentship and the successful candidate will be expected to spend time at both the University of Cambridge and The National Archives. The National Archives is the UK government's official archive, and its collection of historical government and public records is one of the largest in the world. The student will be embedded within the Medieval Records team, which has considerable expertise in medieval history, from Domesday to the Dissolution. The student will be part of a cohort of PhD students at The National Archives, who are developing expertise in conducting collaborative research.


The project will be co-supervised by:

  • Orietta Da Rold, Associate Professor, Faculty of English, University of Cambridge
  • Dr Suzanne Paul, Keeper of Rare Books and Early Manuscripts, Cambridge University Library, University of Cambridge
  • Dr Euan Roger, Principal Records Specialist (Medieval), The National Archives


The student will be able to attend graduate training sessions in the English and History Faculties, and the University Library at the University of Cambridge. The student will also receive professional handling training and attend The National Archives’ Postgraduate Archival Skills Training (PAST) workshops, which provide broad and specific training regarding medieval collections.

The student will participate in The National Archives’ growing research community, which includes other PhD students and staff. They will be invited to attend regular research events and network with curators, records specialists and conservators, imaging and digital humanities specialists at the University Library and at The National Archives.

How to apply

We want to encourage the widest range of potential students to study for this studentship and are committed to welcoming students from different backgrounds to apply. 

Applicants must be able to demonstrate an interest in medieval historical and literary culture, and potential enthusiasm for developing skills and knowledge more widely in related areas.

For an informal discussion about the opportunity, you are welcome to contact Prof. Orietta Da Rold (od245@cam.ac.uk) or Dr Euan Roger (Euan.Roger@nationalarchives.gov.uk).

Applicants should apply to the PhD in English by 6 January 2022 (12:00am, midnight, UK time), the deadline for the University of Cambridge's Graduate Funding competition. For further details on how to apply for this CDA through the University of Cambridge, please see the advert on the Cambridge jobs site.