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Grace Owen

History, University of Birmingham

Thesis title:

A comparative study of rural and urban manorial officialdom in the later Medieval period

My thesis is a comparative study that aims to determine the difference between manorial officials in rural and urban environments during the fourteenth century. This will provide an insight into the social and economic diversity between regional locales in a way that has been previously unstudied. Peasant officials, elected from the unfree tenantry, were given significant responsibility and authority, exercising control of important manorial revenue streams. This thesis will deepen understanding of medieval peasant society through examination of the social and cultural pressures on the role of peasant officials analysing the regional variation in their function as a link between the peasantry and the state. It will also discuss the impact of lordship, the relationship between officials and their community, and the position of manorial officials in the social and power structure of rural and urban communities. It is a multi-disciplinary, comparative study utilising a history from below methodology to form an interlinking analysis of the geographic, economic, and social components of the roles, responsibilities, and expectations of elected officials, exploring both localised and national trends.

Research Area

  • History



  • To be given: "Negotiating the Boundaries between Manorial Officials and the Peasantry in Later Medieval England", Leeds International Medieval Congress, July 6-9th 2020.

  • To be given: "Memory and Perception: Representations of Manorial Officers in Medieval England", EMREM Annual Symposium The Good Old Days?: Memory, Reflection and Commemoration, May 14-16th 2020.


  • "Space and Peasant-Exerted Authority", Social History Society Annual Conference, at the University of Lincoln, June 10-12th.

  • "The Rewards of Peasant Officialdom in the Fourteenth Century", Sowing the Seeds VI, London School of Economics, June 15th.

  • "My Experience with Roundhouse Birmingham (National Trust)", M4C Residential Induction, September 25th.

Public Engagement & Impact


University of Birmingham:

"Living in the Middle Ages", first year undergraduate history module (20 Credits).

"Reformation, Rebellion, and Revolution: The Making of the Modern World, c. 1500-1800", first year undergraduate history module (20 credits).

University of Nottingham:

Assisted in postgraduate Latin and Palaeography seminars on fourteenth century court rolls.


  • Co-organiser of the annual EMREM (Early Medieval Renaissance Early Modern) Symposium, "The Good Old Days?: Memory, Reflection, and Commemoration", 14-16th May 2020.


  • Co-organiser of the annual EMREM (Early Medieval Renaissance Early Modern) Symposium, "Powerful Places". This was held at the University of Birmingham 10-11th May.


  • Co-organiser of the Medieval Midlands 2018 Postgraduate Conference, May 4-5th, at the University of Nottingham, https://medievalmidlands.wordpress.com/medieval-midlands-postgraduate-conference/

  • Poster presentation, "The role of manorial officials in pledging in the manor court", given at the M3C Research Festival in Birmingham.

  • Three month placement with Roundhouse Birmingham, a heritage site enterprise between the National Trust and the Canal & River Trust. My main responsibilities were the recruitment and co-ordination of 19 research volunteers, event organization, running and evaluation, as well as market research and interaction with cultural organizations in Birmingham to help create new methods for heritage sites to engage with the public.

  • Committee member of the University of Birmingham's postgraduate led EMREM (Early Medieval Renaissance Early Modern) forum which hosts events and has created a Palaeography reading group to enable all students to come together and share their knowledge and network.


  • I was awarded a scholarship by BRIHC (Birmingham Research Institute for History and Cultures) for my Masters degree. This enabled me to engage in the assistance of running conferences, outreach programmes, and participating in interdisciplinary discussions across the School of History and Cultures.


  • Voluntary work in community history projects, including:

    • At Hartlebury Castle, a local heritage site, I participated in the maintenance of the site, ushering, and was involved in numerous events that encouraged public engagement with local history.

    • 'A Thousand Years of Building with Stone', was an Earth Heritage project that recorded the location and history of stone buildings in Worcestershire and Herefordshire.

Other Research Interests

  • Social & Economic History

  • The Peasantry

  • Social Network Analysis

  • Pledging

  • The Black Death

  • Power structures

  • Gender History


Member of:

  • Royal Historical Society, 2019 - present

  • Social History Society, 2018 - present

  • Economic History Society, 2019 - present