SMA Annual Conference ‘Waiting for the End of the World: Disaster & Risk in Medieval Europe’ – Programme


Waiting for the end of the world: perceptions of disaster and risk in medieval Europe

What happened when natural disasters affected medieval European societies (AD 500-1550)? The roll-call of disasters during this period is lengthy and their effects were sometimes felt across the whole of Europe in a way that has not been observed in modern times. In 1258 the largest volcanic eruption of the last 7,000 years affected the entire continent, while in 1315-1321 the most serious famine in recorded European history was driven by a prolonged period of low temperatures and heavy summer rainfalls associated with abnormally warm North Atlantic sea temperatures. Other events such as the most powerful earthquake in central Europe in 1356, river floods, tsunamis in the Mediterranean and sea surges along north-western coastlines all affected specific regions so that responses by different communities can be usefully compared. How did hazards become disasters, how did societies perceive these events, and how did they react and evolve to reduce their vulnerability?
This weekend conference is the annual conference of the Society for Medieval Archaeology, but is open to all.

Programme details


The Society for Medieval Archaeology Weekend Conference, but open to all



6.15pm          Registration (for those who have booked meals and or accommodation)

7.00pm           Dinner

8.00pm            Registration (for those who have booked as non-residential without meals)

8.15- 9.15pm    HELENA HAMEROW Society Presidential Lecture – Fire, Flood and Famine: The archaeology of natural disasters in Early Medieval Europe



8.00am           Breakfast (residents only)

9.15am           FRANCIS LUDLOW- Social instability and coping with extremes of drought, wet and cold in Medieval Ireland

10.00am          PETER BROWN- Extreme Winds and High Tides: Responses to storms in medieval England

11.00am          Coffee / tea

11.30am         CHRISTIAN ROHR – Disaster or everyday risk? Perceiving, managing and memorizing floods in medieval Central Europe

12.15pm          DAVID GRIFFITHS – Drowning in sand: coastal change and crisis in Medieval Britain

1.15pm            Lunch

2.15pm            CARENZA LEWIS – Disaster recovery: new archaeological evidence for the long-term impact of the ‘calamitous’ fourteenth century

3.00pm         RICHARD JONES –   Flooding and water management through the evidence of place names

4.00pm           Tea / coffee

4.30pm          ANDREW DUGMORE – Risk and adaptation at the edge of the world: Norse settlement of Greenland


5.30pm           Break / free time

7.00pm           Dinner

8.15-9.15pm   DAVID PETLEY – Understanding historic risk: a key component of modern day risk assessment for natural hazards




8.15am        Breakfast (residents only)

9.15am         PAOLO FORLIN – The ArMedEa project. Recent work on the archaeology of Medieval Earthquakes in Europe (AD 1000-1550)


10.00am      BRUNO FIGLIUOLO – Medieval earthquakes in Italy. Perceptions and reactions


11.00am      Coffee / tea

11.30am       CHRIS DYER – The experience of disaster in late medieval England: resilience and recovery

12.15pm       ELEANOR STANDLEY – Fear and Miracles: Coping with disasters through material culture in the Middle Ages

1.15pm         Lunch and course disperses


Accommodation for this weekend is at Rewley House for Friday and Saturday nights only. Depending on availability it may also be possible to extend your stay, please enquire at the time of booking for availability and prices. All bedrooms are modern, comfortably furnished and each room has tea and coffee making facilities, Freeview television, and Free WiFi and private bath or shower rooms. Unfortunately it is not yet possible to book twin room accommodation online, so if you wish to book a twin room, please send in your completed enrolment form or contact the Day & Weekend Events Office, Email:; Telephone: + 44 (0) 1865 270380 / 270368.


Tuition (includes coffee/tea): £132.00
Baguette Saturday: £4.40
Baguette Sunday: £4.40
Dinner Friday night: £18.25
Dinner Saturday night: £18.25
Hot Lunch Saturday: £13.00
Hot Lunch Sunday: £13.00
Single B&B Friday & Saturday nights: £145.20
Twin B&B Friday & Saturday nights (per person): £104.20


You may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees if you are in receipt of a state benefit e.g. Job Seekers’ Allowance, Income Support, Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit, Housing Benefit, Employment and Support Allowance, Disability Living Allowance and Attendance Allowance or Severe Disablement Allowance, (a full list is available on request) or your sole source of income is a DWP State Retirement Pension and Pension Credit. Concessionary fees are limited to 3 courses per academic year and if you are already receiving concessions for weekly classes these will be taken into account. Documentary evidence of your status will be required.
Click here for an application form (Word, PDF)


Professor Christopher Gerrard


Chris Gerrard is the co-author of Mick Aston’s final major publication – ‘Interpreting the English Village’, which won the British Archaeological Award for best archaeological book in 2015. Chris is a Professor of Medieval Archaeology at the University of Durham and worked for more than 20 years with Mick on the Shapwick Project, an investigation of medieval rural settlement which covered a great range of techniques and topics. Professor of Medieval Archaeology, Durham University

Mr Peter Brown


PhD Candidate, Durham University

Professor Andrew Dugmore


Professor of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh

Professor Christopher Dyer


Emeritus Professor of History, University of Leicester

Professor Bruno Figliuolo


Professor of Medieval History, University of Udine

Dr Paolo Forlin


Marie Curie Research Fellow, Durham University

Dr David Griffiths


Director of Studies in Archaeology, Oxford University Department for Continuing Education

Professor Helena Hamerow


Professor of Early Medieval Archaeology, Oxford University

Dr Richard Jones


Senior Lecturer in Landscape History, University of Leicester

Professor Carenza Lewis


Professor for the Public Understanding of Research, University of Lincoln

Mr Francis Ludlow


Trinity College Dublin

Professor David Petley


Pro-Vice Chancellor (Research and Enterprise), University of East Anglia

Professor Christian Rohr


Professor of Environmental and Climate History, University of Bern

Dr Eleanor Standley


Lecturer and Assistant Keeper in Medieval Archaeology, Oxford University and the Ashmolean Museum

Dr Alison MacDonald


Dr Alison MacDonald is a Lecturer in Archaeology at OUDCE.

She received her BA in Classical Civilisation and Ancient History from Sheffield University (1989) and her doctorate from Oxford University (2003). Her research interests include Roman landscapes and Roman material culture and identity, and her fieldwork is in central Italy where she has worked on a number of landscape archaeology projects.

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