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Rachel Clemo (née Harley)

Siblings and Sibling Relations in Later Medieval England, 1300-1550

My PhD thesis seeks to understand the nature of sibling relationships in the Middle Ages, a topic that is overlooked in extant scholarship on kinship and households. I locate my research within two different social groups from later medieval English society, viz. gentry and substantial townsfolk. Using an interdisciplinary methodology, analysing literary alongside documentary sources, my study considers the dynamic nature of siblinghood. I am particularly interested in how gender, birth order and life-stage shaped the behaviour of sisters and brothers, as well as the changing and paradoxical qualities of sibling bonds. My project’s recognition that sibling dynamics are inflected by gender and social standing will also generate insights beneficial to present-day understandings of familial support networks. My research is generously funded by the AHRC through the White Rose College of the Arts & Humanities (WRoCAH).


Rachel completed a BA in History at Cardiff University in 2020 with first-class honours, winning the A. G. Little Prize Award for best overall performance in her final year cohort. She continued her studies at the University of York, completing an MA in Medieval History in 2021 with a distinction and the Dissertation Prize award. A month later, Rachel joined the Centre for Medieval Studies on an AHRC-WRoCAH scholarship to start her PhD, which is supervised by Dr Jeremy Goldberg and Dr Nicola McDonald. Her research interests lie in the social and cultural history of later medieval Britain and Europe, as well as gender and women’s history. She is passionate about diversifying higher education, especially by making learning more accessible for students who are neurodivergent and/or come from disadvantaged backgrounds.


Rachel is a co-founder of the interdisciplinary Sibling Studies Network, with Dr Katherine Davies (Sociology, Sheffield), Dr Nikita Hayden (Psychology, Warwick), and Professor Shawn Whiteman (Human Development & Family Studies, Utah State). This network is the result of the rich conversations sparked during the Sibling Studies Colloquium, 2022, an event organised by Rachel Harley. The Sibling Studies Network's discussions about different aspects of siblinghood, both in research and practice, seek to enrich and nuance the wider field of sibling studies, as well as to improve community services and social policy. To access the network's website, click here.

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Contact details

Rachel Clemo (née Harley)
PhD candidate
Centre for Medieval Studies