Dr Robert Gallagher

Lecturer in Early Medieval History
Deputy Director of Recruitment and Admissions

About

Dr Robert Gallagher completed his BA and MA at the University of York and, following three years out of academia, he carried out his PhD at the University of Cambridge. 

He has since held postdoctoral positions at the University of Cambridge, University of the Basque Country and the University of Oxford. In January 2019 he was delighted to join the University of Kent as a lecturer in medieval history. 

Research interests

Robert is a historian of early medieval Britain, particularly Anglo-Saxon England. Much of his current research focuses on uses of the written word, multilingualism, and cultural and political identities in early medieval societies. These themes lie at the heart of the book that he is completing on the kingdoms of Mercia, Wessex and Kent in the ninth and early tenth centuries, which is called Writing the Realm: Latin, Old English and the Written Word in Southern Britain, c. 830–920

A second, related strand of current research is concerned with the range of Latin vocabulary employed by authors in Britain in the ninth and tenth centuries. This has led to an individual study on the reception of Asser’s famous late ninth-century biography of King Alfred the Great, and to a developing interest in the reception and use of the Greek language in early medieval western Europe. 

More generally, Robert is an enthusiastic researcher of early medieval charters, manuscripts, letters and poetry, and he also enjoys collaborative research. At present, he is co-editing a volume with Edward Roberts and Francesca Tinti on multilingualism and early medieval documentary cultures (to be published by Brill).

Teaching

Robert primarily teaches early medieval topics at both undergraduate and postgraduate level.

Supervision

Robert would be keen to hear from anyone interested in researching topics related to early medieval Britain, Anglo-Saxon England, medieval textual cultures and Medieval Latin literature.

Professional

Robert is a member of the editorial team of Canterbury Cathedral’s Picture This project.

Publications

Article

  • Gallagher, R. (2019). King Alfred and the Sibyl: Sources of praise in the Latin acrostic verses of Bern, Burgerbibliothek, 671. Early Medieval Europe [Online] 27:279-298. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/emed.12331.
    This article offers an analysis of the possible sources that influenced the composition of the sole surviving set of Latin verses that were composed for the Anglo-Saxon King Alfred the Great (871–899). In particular, a hitherto unrecognized textual model is identified, namely the ‘Sibylline acrostic’. Consideration of potential sources also provides a greater appreciation of the social and cultural values of these Latin verses and of what, in turn, this poetry tells us about the Alfredian milieu in which it was produced, presented and consumed.
  • Gallagher, R. (2018). The vernacular in Anglo-Saxon charters: expansion and innovation in ninth-century England. Historical Research [Online] 91:205-235. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-2281.12224.
    This article offers a systematic analysis of the earliest uses in charters of the Anglo?Saxon vernacular, Old English, for purposes other than describing the geographic landscape. By doing so, the article draws attention to the dynamism of documentary culture in the first half of the ninth century and it argues that several of the developments of the period are best understood when considered from an international perspective. Adding nuance and detail to our view of ninth?century Anglo?Saxon literary activity, this investigation has significant implications for our understanding of early medieval literacy, language choice and uses of the written word.
  • Gallagher, R. and Tinti, F. (2017). Latin, Old English and documentary practice at Worcester from Wærferth to Oswald. Anglo-Saxon England [Online] 46:271-325. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0263675118000091.
    This article analyses the uses of Latin and Old English in the charters of Worcester cathedral, which represents one of the largest and most linguistically interesting of the surviving Anglo-Saxon archives. Specifically focused on the period encompassing the episcopates of Wærferth and Oswald (c. 870 to 992), this survey examines a time of intense administrative activity at Worcester, contemporaneous with significant transformations in the political and cultural life of Anglo-Saxon England more generally. In doing so, this article argues that when writing in either Latin or the vernacular, charter draftsmen responded to a number of variables; language choice did not simply reflect varying levels of literacy. Furthermore, the frequent cases of code-switching found in tenth-century Worcester documents mark this community out as exceptional, suggesting that attitudes towards the interaction between the two languages could vary considerably between institutions.
  • Gallagher, R. (2017). Latin Acrostic Poetry in Anglo-Saxon England: Reassessing the Contribution of John the Old Saxon. Medium Ævum [Online] 86:249-275. Available at: http://aevum.space/86/2.
    Other than charters, only a handful of Latin texts from Anglo-Saxon England can be conclusively dated to the ninth and early tenth centuries. Remarkably, of these, not one but two are sets of acrostic poetry in praise of West Saxon royalty: the first in honour of King Alfred and the second in honour of his grandson, Æthelstan. Modern understanding of these poems has been defined almost entirely by a seminal article by Michael Lapidge, who in 1980 argued that both are likely to be the work of a single individual, John the Old Saxon, one of the continental scholars named in Asser’s Life of King Alfred who had joined Alfred’s court in the 880s. Lapidge’s thesis is highly persuasive and, indeed, many scholars have accepted his interpretation, despite the direct challenge of Gernot Wieland in 2006. There are, however, important aspects of these verses that have hitherto been overlooked and which have significant implications for their authorship. In the present essay, therefore, I seek to reappraise Lapidge’s argument. I also wish to go beyond the question of authorial identity, to begin to consider these texts within a broader cultural context: comparatively speaking, why might this literary form have been so popular with Anglo-Saxon audiences at this point in time?
  • Gallagher, R. (2009). Aediluulf’s De abbatibus: a Soteriological Reading. Quaestio Insularis [Online] 9:129-143. Available at: https://www.asnc.cam.ac.uk/publications/quaestio/Quaestio2008.html.

Book section

  • Gallagher, R. (2018). An Irish Scholar and England: the ’Metrical Calendar of Hampson’. In: Clayton, M., Jorgensen, A. and Mullins, J. eds. England, Ireland, and the Insular World: Textual and Material Connections in the Early Middle Ages. Arizona Center for Medieval & Renaissance Studies. Available at: https://acmrs.org/publications/catalog/england-ireland-and-insular-world-textual-and-material-connections-early-middle.

Review

  • Gallagher, R. (2018). 18.05.12, Ashdowne, Latin in Medieval Britain. The Medieval Review [Online]. Available at: https://scholarworks.iu.edu/journals/index.php/tmr/article/view/25410.
  • Gallagher, R. (2016). Review of The Anglo-Saxon Chancery: the History, Language and Production of Anglo-Saxon Charters from Alfred to Edgar, by Ben Snook. History [Online] 101:112-114. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-229X.12146.
  • Gallagher, R. (2016). Kazutomo Karasawa (ed & trans), The Old English Metrical Calendar. Peritia [Online] 27:271-274. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1484/J.PERIT.4.000012.

Forthcoming

  • Gallagher, R. (2020). Asser and the Writing of West Saxon Charters. English Historical Review.
  • Review of Rebecca Stephenson and Emily V. Thornbury (eds), Latinity and Identity in Anglo-Saxon Literature (2019). Peritia 30:TBC-TBC.
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