Dr Katharine Sykes

Dr Katharine Sykes

Department of History
Associate Professor in Early Medieval History

I work on the creation and regulation of communities in the early and central middle ages. I’m particularly interested in the ways in which institutions or groups of people – as well as individuals – were gendered. I’ve just finished writing a book on monasteries and families in the early middle ages (600CE-1100CE); previously, I’ve worked on the origins of a group of double (mixed-sex) monasteries in the twelfth century, and the writing of hagiography (biographies of saints).

Feedback and office hours

  • Tuesdays 10:00 - 11:00
  • Thursdays 11:00 - 12:00


  • DPhil, Medieval History, University of Oxford
  • MA Late Medieval Studies, University of York
  • BA (Hons) Modern History, University of Oxford


I did my undergraduate degree in History at Oxford, moved to the University of York for a MA in Medieval Studies, then returned to Oxford for a DPhil in Medieval History. I then held a series of teaching and research posts in Oxford before coming to Birmingham in September 2016.


  • Discovering the Middle Ages
  • Treasure in Anglo-Saxon England
  • Reproduction and the self: gender and sexuality in the early middle ages.
  • Ancient and Medieval History in Theory and Practice.
  • West Midlands MA

Postgraduate supervision

I am interested in supervising research on early medieval gender and sexuality, religious communities and institutional development.

Find out more - our PhD History  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


My research focuses on the creation and regulation of communities and institutions in the early and central middle ages. In particular, my work focusses on double monasteries – religious communities which housed both men and women – and the extent to which monasticism was gendered in both theory and practice. I draw on a variety of methodological approaches, from anthropology and sociology to psychoanalytic theory, and my work makes use of both textual and material sources. I am currently working on my second book, which explores the relationship between monasteries and families in Anglo-Saxon England.

Other activities

Co-convenor (with Professor Naomi Standen) of the MA and MRes in Medieval History.


Recent publications


Sykes, K 2023, Symbolic Reproduction in Early Medieval England: Secular and Monastic Households. Past and Present monographs, 1 edn, Oxford University Press.

Sykes, K 2011, Inventing Sempringham: Gilbert of Sempringham and the origins of the role of the Master . Lit Verlag, Vita Regularis: Ordnungen und Deutungen religiosen Lebens im Mittelalter, vol. 46, LIT Verlag, Zurich/Berlin.


Sykes, K 2020, 'Rewriting the rules: gender, bodies, and monastic legislation in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries', The Journal of Medieval Monastic Studies, vol. 9, pp. 107-131. https://doi.org/10.1484/J.JMMS.5.120398

Sykes, K 2011, 'Sanctity as a Form of Capital', Studies in Church History. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0424208400000899


Sykes, K 2023, New movements of the 12th century: diversity, belonging, and order(s). in K Curran & J Burton (eds), Medieval Women Religious, c.800-c.1500: New Perspectives. Studies in the History of Medieval Religion, vol. 52, Boydell & Brewer, Woodbridge, pp. 43-60. <https://boydellandbrewer.com/9781837650293/medieval-women-religious-c-800-c-1500/>

Sykes, K 2021, The sense of an ending: time and temporality in the Vita Ædwardi regis. in A Sutherland & A Suerbaum (eds), Medieval temporalities: The experience of time in Medieval Europe. Boydell & Brewer, Cambridge, pp. 17-32. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctv1grbb4c.8

Sykes, K 2015, Creating a model of religious leadership: the vita of Gilbert of Sempringham. in JW Buisman, M Dirks & P Raedts (eds), Episcopacy, authority and gender: aspects of religious leadership in Europe, 1100-2000. Brill's Series in Church History and Religious Culture, vol. 71, Brill, Leiden, pp. 85-97. <http://www.brill.com/products/book/episcopacy-authority-and-gender>

Other contribution

Cavell, M, Trilling, R, Cheung, WL, Keener, J, Majewski, H, Morrow, M, Newton, K, Packman, A, Sykes, K & Varnam, L 2024, Playing with Old English: A Playful Pedagogy Resource.. <https://hdl.handle.net/2142/122753>

View all publications in research portal