Dr Amanda Power

Photo of Amanda Power


Senior Lecturer in Medieval History
B.A. (Sydney), Ph.D. (Cantab.)
Medieval religious, intellectual and cultural history

+44 (0)114 22 22560
Jessop West room 2.12
Office hours: Spring 2014/15 - on maternity leave

Amanda Power was educated at the University of Sydney and Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. She held a junior research fellowship at Magdalene College, Cambridge. She joined the History Department in Sheffield in 2005.


Amanda Power Roger Bacon book cover

Amanda works on the intellectual, religious and political life of medieval Europe. She has recently completed a monograph, Roger Bacon and the Defence of Christendom, which re-imagines this prominent figure in the history of medieval science as a committed Franciscan and reformer. She is currently working on two major projects. The first examines the development of the English province of the Franciscan order within its wider ecclesiastical, intellectual and social contexts. The other is concerned with the diplomatic and religious missions to Mongols and Muslims by Franciscans and Dominicans during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

Amanda is interested in the functioning of the mendicant orders within, and as products of, the complex, cosmopolitan society of medieval Europe. Her work investigates the distinctive religious and cosmographical imagination of the period and its impact upon public affairs. She is particularly interested in the responses of religious and secular authorities to the new geographical information gathered in the wake of the Mongol conquests, and to the influx of Greco-Arabic learning from the Mediterranean world.

Research Supervision

Amanda is willing to supervise research in the areas of later medieval thought, the religious orders, expansion of European horizons, inter-faith relations and ecclesiastical history.

Ben Lacey - Constructing Communities: Identification and Self-understanding in the Twelfth-Century North of England.

Daniel Murphy - The Tormented Church: Visions of Crisis and Reform in the Medieval Imagination, c. 1150-1250.

Robyn Parker - The Social Theatre of Wandering Preachers and Hermits in France, 1050-1150.

Elizabeth Goodwin - Female Monastic Experience of Reform in England, 1300-1540.

Further information on research opportunities within the department.


Amanda Power Roger Bacon and the Defence of Christendom book cover Roger Bacon and the Defence of Christendom (Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012)

The English Franciscan, Roger Bacon (ca.1214–92), holds a controversial but important position in the development of modern science. He has been portrayed as an isolated figure, at odds with his influential order and ultimately condemned by it. This major study, the first in English for nearly sixty years, offers a provocative new interpretation of both Bacon and his environment. Amanda Power argues that his famous writings for the papal curia were the product of his critical engagement with the objectives of the Franciscan order and the reform agenda of the thirteenth-century church. Fearing that the apocalypse was at hand and Christians unprepared, Bacon explored radical methods for defending, renewing and promulgating the faith within Christendom and beyond. Read in this light, his work indicates the breadth of imagination possible in a time of expanding geographical and intellectual horizons.


Book Chapters

'Encounters in the Ruins: Latin Captives, Franciscan Friars and the Dangers of Religious Plurality in the early Mongol Empire' in Charlotte Methuen, Andrew Spicer and John Wolff (eds), Christianity and Religious Plurality (Studies in Church History, 51. London: Boydell Press, forthcoming, 2015), pp. 115-36


‘The Problem of Obedience among the English Friars’, in M. Breitenstein, J. Burkhardt, S. Burkhardt and J. Röhrkasten (eds), Rules and Observance: Devising Forms of Communal Life (Vita Regularis, 60. Berlin: LIT Verlag, 2014), 129-67


'The Cosmographical Imagination of Roger Bacon' in K. D. Lilley (ed.), Mapping Medieval Geographies: Geographical encounters and cartographic cultures in the Latin West and beyond: 300-1600, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), pp. 83-99


‘The Importance of Greeks in Latin Thought: the Evidence of Roger Bacon’ in Shipping, Trade and Crusade in the Medieval Mediterranean: Studies in Honour of John Pryor, edited by R. Gertwagen and E. Jeffreys (London: Ashgate, 2012), 351-78


'The Remedies for Great Danger: Contemporary Appraisals of Roger Bacon's Expertise' in J. Canning, E. King and M. Staub (eds), Knowledge, Discipline and Power: Essays in Honour of David Luscombe, (Studien und Texte zur Geistesgeschichte des Mittelalters. Leiden: Brill, 2011) pp. 63-78


'In the last days at the end of the world: Roger Bacon and the reform of Christendom' in J. Rohrkasten and M. Robson (eds.), Acts of the Franciscan History Conference held at the Franciscan International Study Centre on 9th September 2006, (Canterbury Studies in Franciscan History, 1. Canterbury, 2008), pp. 135-51


'Infideles in the Opus maius of Roger Bacon', in Geraldine Barnes and Gabrielle Singleton (eds.), Travel and Travellers from Bede to Dampier: Papers from the University of Sydney Centre for Medieval Studies Workshop 22-23 August 2001, (London: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2005)


Journal Articles

'Going among the infidels: the mendicant orders and Louis IX's first Mediterranean campaign', Mediterranean Historical Review, 25.2 (2010) pp. 187-202.


'Franciscan Advice to the Papacy in the Middle Ages', History Compass, 5.5 (2007) pp. 1550-1575.


'A Mirror for Every Age: the Reputation of Roger Bacon', English Historical Review, 121, no. 492 (2006) pp. 657-692.


Full list of publications by Amanda Power.


Module Leader - Pagans, Christians and Heretics in Medieval Europe, HST114 (First Year compulsory module)

Ranging across a millennium of history, you will find out on this module about the conversion of the Roman Empire and then of the barbarians, the rise of Islam, the imperial coronation of Charlemagne, the eleventh-century reform of Christianity in the west, the emergence and repression of heresy, the Crusades, the papal monarchy, and ideas about the end of the world, amongst other topics. The theme that lies at the module's heart, holding it all together, is the central question of the relations between power, religion and identity between the fourth and the fourteenth centuries in Europe.

Module Leader - Sacred Violence in the Medieval Mediterranean, HST280 (Level 2 optional module)

During the thirteenth century, an expansionist and militant Christendom fought wars all around the Mediterranean to re-conquer the lands that had once belonged to the Roman Empire but had been lost over the centuries. Muslims, Jews, heretics and others who inhabited the region were commonly seen as deadly enemies of the true faith who had to be converted or destroyed. This module will investigate the wide-ranging activities of popes, kings, crusaders, missionaries and merchants as they worked together to impose Latin Christianity on the lands and peoples of the Mediterranean. It will examine the reconquista in Spain; the Albigensian Crusades against heretics in the south of France; the wars against the Hohenstaufen emperors in southern Italy and Sicily; the Fourth Crusade and its aftermath in the Byzantine Empire; the crusades in support of the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem; and the complex relations with the cities of North Africa. Attention will be given to the role of the papacy, which saw itself as the supreme power on earth, responsible for directing medieval society in the work of defence, expansion and conversion. Papal policy was often implemented by the new religious orders of Franciscans and Dominicans, who were deeply involved in the development of new ways to engage in dialogue with heretics and non-Christians. The importance of successful 're-conquest' of territories around the Mediterranean in the emergence of strong, centralised kingdoms will be explored. Finally, the complicated tangle of individual motivations as they were articulated by contemporaries, and the unresolved tension between crusade and mission will form the backdrop.

Module Leader - Muslims, Mongols and the West, 1095-1350, HST3089/3090 (Level 3 Special Subject module)

This module explores how western European attitudes to the wider world before the great age of colonial expansion were forged in response to two major events. The first, the establishment of the crusader kingdom of Jerusalem introduced western Christians to the complex, dangerous and unfamiliar world of Muslim, Jewish and eastern Christian communities. The second, the sudden, savage conquests of the Mongol hordes along the frontiers of Christendom and deep into the Middle East, shocked Christians and Muslims out of a preoccupation with their conflicts in the Holy Land, and broadened their awareness of both the possibilities and the threats presented by a wider world. Before long, the Mongols had established a vast empire in which, as a Venetian merchant put it, 'the roads are safe by day and night', and were presenting themselves to Christians as potential allies against Muslims. The opening up of much of Asia to Christian diplomacy, trade, exploration and missionary work transformed European perceptions and played a crucial role in forming the imagination and ambition of the West. Although the Mongol Empire collapsed in the mid-fourteenth century, this formative period of contact between East and West was profoundly to shape the modern world.

The primary sources for this module are rich and varied. In the first semester, we will begin by considering existing western assumptions about the east, deriving from the fascinating and often bizarre heritage of ancient travel writing; the garbled memories of the conquests of Alexander the Great, and the assertions of pseudo-scientific works. Then we will examine the experiences of Christians in the Holy Land through the accounts left by crusaders, pilgrims, merchants, Muslim observers and many others. In the second semester, we trace the continuing expansion of European horizons from the first, horrified reports of Mongol atrocities and the journeys of early papal envoys to the Mongol court to the extraordinary travels of men such as Marco Polo and the eventual establishment of a Franciscan mission in Beijing that began the western discovery of China.

Module Team - Identity and Belief, HST3303 (Level 3 comparative module)

The purpose of this course is to explore the role of belief systems both for individuals and communities, with a particular focus on religion. Key questions will include: How have religious beliefs shaped individual identities, both in terms of their own sense of self and their place in society? What role do spiritual beliefs play in the way communities function? What is the relationship between belief and the nation? How do we explain moments of apparently radical change in a society´s beliefs? These issues will be considered from an historical perspective, considering the nature of change and continuity over time and space.

Module Team - Approaching the Middle Ages, HST658 (Postgraduate module)

The module is designed as an introduction into research on the Middle Ages and aims to familiarise students with the method of the discipline. Seminars will address both the tools of modern interpretation of the Middle Ages and, in 6 intercalated seminars, the materials (sources) used by historians. Further, modern interpretation will be subsumed under three main approaches: Transitions, which will deal with influential chronological narratives and refresh students´ knowledge of the main sections of medieval history; Perspectives, which will introduce students to both the perspectives of historians and the perspectives of medieval people; and Identities, which will present, and critically deal with, some structural elements identified by historians of medieval societies.

Module Leader - Imagining the Unseen in the Middle Ages, HST683 (Postgraduate module)

In the medieval period, all humans knew themselves to be enmeshed in the grand narrative of Christianity, their destinies shaped by the hope of heaven and the dread of hell. This consciousness was not restricted to an expectation of what was to come after death but included a deep awareness of the ways in which the supernatural seeped into earthly existence. The interventions of God and the Devil, angels, saints and demons were feared or desired – solicited or warded off through prayers, pilgrimage, sacraments and contact with holy relics. Stories were told of encounters with restless souls, strange beasts and treacherous spirits; of dream-journeys through hell, purgatory and heaven; of travellers suddenly finding themselves in mysterious kingdoms. The medieval imagination was haunted by this complex 'unseen world' that was more vivid, beautiful and terrifying than the real world in which they lived their daily lives. This module considers the nature of the religious and superstitious beliefs that were so fundamental to the medieval mentalité and had such a powerful impact on political, social, military, and scientific thinking in the Middle Ages. It aims to give students important background to study of the period and to assist imaginative engagement with an age distant in time and characterised by a profoundly spiritual understanding of the world.

Public Engagement

To follow.


In the Media

To follow.

Professional Roles

Defining the Global Middle Ages Research Network - Member


University Administrative Roles

Dual Degrees Tutor and HST114 Module Co-ordinator.