James Chetwood


Ttitle: Tom, Dick and Leofric: The Transformation of English Personal Naming, c. 800–1300.
Funded by: Wolfson Foundation Postgraduate Scholarship
Start year: 2013
Email: JAChetwood1@sheffield.ac.uk

Primary: Dr Charles West | Secondary: Dr Simon Loseby and Dr Máirín MacCarron


Research topic

Between 800 and 1300, a profound change took place in the way the people of England were named. My project reexamines the course of this transformation and attempts to determine the societal, cultural and linguistic changes that contributed to it.

Unlike many medieval sources, personal names give us the chance to examine the lives of ordinary people, not just kings and aristocrats. My aim is to use names as 'documents of social history' in order to better understand the people of medieval England: how they created individual, family and group identities, and interpreted those of others; how they interacted with and understood the communities and landscapes in which they lived; and how they negotiated their relationships with friends and neighbours, enemies and rivals.  


Academic background

  • PhD. History, University of Sheffield, 2017
  • M.A. Medieval History, University of Sheffield, 2012
  • PG Certificate in E-Learning Design, Universities of Sussex and Brighton, 2007
  • M.A. Applied Linguistics, University of Sussex, 2005
  • B.A. (Hons.) History, University of Sussex, 2004



  • 'Re-evaluating English Personal Naming on the Eve of the Conquest', Early Medieval Europe (forthcoming).
  • 'Making Sense of Names', So Long as it’s Words, June 2016. Available online here.
  • 'Where Are All The Plain-Speaking Englishmen?', History Matters. Available online here.
  • 'A Noble Stone Gathers No Moss', History Today, vol. 69, Issue 9, September 2015. Also available online here.


Conference and seminar papers

  • 'Re-naming the people of England: A re-evaluation of personal name practices in medieval England', IHR Earlier Middle Ages Seminar, (London, December 2016)
  • 'You Can Call Me Al-Cuin: A Re-Evaluation of Medieval English Personal Naming, 900-1100', International Medieval Congress, (Leeds, July 2016)
  • 'A Load of Bollocks: Naming, identity and community in medieval Winchester', Concepts of Communities, (Sheffield, March 2016)
  • 'The regulation of identity through names and naming in twentieth-century Spain', Language of Authoritarian Regimes, (Sheffield, February 2016)
  • 'Personal naming and social identity in medieval England, 850–1350: Would a rose by any other name really smell as sweet?', International Medieval Congress, (Leeds, 2015)
  • 'Anglo-Saxons, Normans and the English: Social naming and the people of medieval England', Medieval and Ancient Research Seminar, (Sheffield, March 2015)




Other work

  • Assistant Editor, History Matters, Sheffield University History Department (2015-2017)
  • Editorial Assistant (Dictionary of American Family Names)



  • 2013–2016: Wolfson Postgraduate Scholarship in the Humanities
  • 2012: George Richard Potter Prize for best MA dissertation, University of Sheffield History Department


Professional affiliations

  • Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • Member of the International Council of Onomastic Sciences
  • Member of the Society for Name Studies in Britain and Ireland
  • Member of the International Society of Anglo-Saxonists


Conference organisation