New Book by Former Student

Posted on 1 November 2018

Congratulations to alumna Laura Slater on the publication of her new book 'Art and Political Thought in Medieval England c.1150-1350'.

Laura completed her undergraduate degree in History and History of Art at York, followed by an MA in Medieval Studies. She completed her AHRC-funded PhD at Cambridge, and briefly returned Art and Political Thought in Medieval England c.1150-1350to York to work on the ERC-funded Spectrum: Visual Translations of Jerusalem project ( She is currently a Fulford Junior Research Fellow at Somerville College, Oxford, working on the ERC-funded project Music and Late Medieval European Court Cultures (

Laura's book explores how power and political society were imagined, represented and reflected on in medieval English art. It offers a new assessment of the role of images in medieval political thought and a new interpretation of English political culture.

Starting with an examination of the writings of late twelfth-century courtier clerics such as John of Salisbury, her study outlines their new vision of English political life as a heightened religious drama: an imaginative universe of crusading struggles against royal tyranny, and defence unto death and holy martyrdom in the cause of the liberties and salvation of the English people. Visual images were key to the development and expression of these ideas. Discussing the vivid pictorial metaphors used in contemporary political treatises, Laura highlights their interaction with public decorative schemas in English great churches (stained glass, wall painting, liturgical furniture such as the choir screen), more private devotional texts and imagery (illustrated saints’ lives, Apocalypse manuscripts, psalters and books of hours) and a range of other visual sources, including seal imagery and illustrated historical chronicles. Exploring events such as the Thomas Becket conflict, the making of Magna Carta, the Barons’ War and the deposition of Edward II, her monograph provides new perspectives on the political role of art, especially in reshaping basic assumptions and expectations about government and political society in medieval England.

To find out more, please see: