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Professor Rebecca Rist – University of Reading

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  • Medieval Religious and Cultural History

    Examining medieval heresy and relationships between the church and minority groups

Professor Rebecca Rist

Professor Rebecca Rist is a Professor in Medieval History and Director of the Graduate Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Reading. Her research interests include the history of crusading, Jewish-Christian relations, heresy, the medieval Church, the papacy, religious belief and political ideas in the High and Late Middle Ages, and the history of religious minorities.

Rebecca hopes to make these subjects more accessible to her students. Her fascination with the medieval Church, the crusades, heresy and Jewish-Christian relations derive originally from her experience of living in the Middle East and her personal connections to Catholicism and Judaism.

Medieval Minorities

The research Rebecca undertakes feeds into curriculum development, and into her teaching at Reading. She is particularly interested in how the medieval papacy liaised with different religious minority groups.

At Part One she supervises the module: Anti-Semitism: Medieval Christian-Jewish Relations and the Concept of 'Anti-Semitism'. Rebecca finds that a lot of her students have never thought about the medieval roots of modern anti-Semitism. She also finds that relating a medieval to a modern topic is an excellent way of interesting students in medieval history.

At Part Two Rebecca teaches an Option module on The Crusades, 1095-1291.

At Part Three she supervises the Option module: Religion and Politics in the Medieval West and a Special Subject module: Heretics and Popes: Heresy and Persecution in Medieval Europe, as well as undergraduate dissertations.

Heretics and Popes: Heresy and Persecution in Medieval Europe is based on research she is currently undertaking for her next major monograph. Rebecca's teaching is research-led: she helps students to engage with source material which she herself is currently researching. She finds that, since her students are approaching the subject afresh, they ask really interesting questions which illuminate and challenge her own research. Rebecca finds it immensely rewarding to see her students tackling and understanding complex concepts.

"I found Rebecca's teaching style and expertise so valuable that I chose her modules every year of university. She shares her passion, enthusiasm and vast knowledge with her students and goes above and beyond to explain things, reinforcing confidence in my own abilities."

 - Megan Wyncoll

Rebecca finds that it is often the case that historians of the medieval period are interested in either the history of the Church, or in the history of minority groups, but there is the need for more research and teaching which combines both interests. She encourages her students to think about the medieval period from both a top-down and a bottom-up perspective. This enables them to look at history from different perspectives, to engage in lively debate, and to appreciate the importance of the medieval world and its enduring influence on how we think today.

"Rebecca is an excellent lecturer who uses relevant sources and techniques to make her modules genuinely interesting. I took Rebecca's module on the Crusades and I can easily say it was my favourite module so far in my degree. Rebecca's modules are a must for any potential medieval historian."

 - Freddie Bolwell, BA History


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