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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.

Hear from a medievalist

Listen to Rebecca talk about her research in medieval religious and cultural history, and the GCMS.

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 teaches the module: Anti-Semitism: Medieval Christian-Jewish Relations and the Concept of 'Antisemitism'. 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 optional module on The Crusades. She explores different aspects of crusading and also discusses recent crusade historiography and the depiction of crusades in literature and film.

Rebecca's teaching is research-led: she helps students to engage with source material which she herself is currently researching. At Part Three she Heretics and Popes: Heresy and Persecution in the Medieval World which is based on research for her latest monograph. This module focuses on the growth of heresy during the Middle Ages, the persecution of heretics by the Church and secular authorities, the status of heretics as a minority group, and the concept of the ‘Other'. Rebecca encourages her students to look at a range of sources in translation including the writings of heretics themselves, contemporary chronicles, papal letters, sermons, theological treatises and canon law.

Changing perceptions

Rebecca 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.

"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. I encourage my 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."