Irina Metzler studied at Reading University for all three academic qualifications, from BA via MA to a PhD thesis on disability in the Middle Ages (kindly supported by a bursary from the Department of History at Reading). After that she was honorary research fellow at the university of Bristol, first in the Department of History, then three years in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, which were followed by an honorary research fellowship at Swansea's Centre for Medieval and Modern Research, MEMO. After she secured a Wellcome Trust Research Fellowship (2012-14) and subsequently a Wellcome Trust University Award (2014-19), Irina became a full-time research member of staff at Swansea. Her interests lie primarily in physical, sensory and intellectual disability in the Middle Ages, but also in perceptions of the natural world in medieval culture, medieval travel and exploration, with knowledge of geography and anthropology. She is also engaged with the knowledge economy in medieval and modern times, interactions between history of ideas and history of education, and concepts of heritage in the past.


  1. 'Will-nots' and 'Cannots': Tracing a Trope in Medieval Thought'. In History of Learning Disability. (pp. 45-63).
  2. Tolkien and disability: the narrative function of disabled characters in Middle-earth. In Death and Immortality in Middle-earth. Peter Roe Series XVII (Proceedings of The Tolkien Society Seminar 2016). (pp. 35-50). Edinburgh: Luna Press Publishing.
  3. Articles on medieval disability in handbook. In Premodern Dis/Ability History: A Companion. (pp. 59-61, 191-2, 221-2, 296-7, 314-15Affalterbach: Didymos Verlag.
  4. In/Dis-Ability: A Medievalist's Perspective. In The Variable Body in History, eds Chris Mounsey and Stan Booth, Oxford et al: Peter Lang. (pp. 13-32).
  5. Then and now: Canon law on disabilities. In Disability in Antiquity, ed. Christian Laes, Rewriting Antiquity series, London & NY: Routledge, 2017. (pp. 455-467).

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  • HIH117 Medieval Europe: an introduction

    The module is a basic introduction to the history of Europe c600-c1450, a period usually described as 'Medieval'. It outlines the political and economic structures of the period, and examines the medieval 'world view' by discussing attitudes to life, death and the afterlife. Its first theme, expansion, charts the growth of Europe as a major world power and includes topics such as the crusades against the Muslims and pagans, political and economic growth, and intellectual development in the foundation of the universities. Its second theme, crisis, focuses on the devastating impact of plague, famine and warfare, and the increasing persecution of heretics, lepers, homosexuals, and Jews.

  • HIH122 Making History

    History is an imprecise art and what historians say and write about the past is not the same as what actually happened in the past. Most people's knowledge about the past doesn't come from professional historians at all but rather from 'public history'. Public history is the collective understandings of the past that exist outside academic discipline of history. It is derived from a diverse range of sources including oral traditions, legends, literature, art, films and television. This module will introduce you to the study and presentation of the past. It will consider how the content, aims and methods of academic and public history compare and contrast and you will engage in your own small research project to investigate this. The module will also teach you about the fundamentals of studying and writing history at university. You will learn about essay writing, group work and critical analysis and employ these skills to understand and assess history today, both as an academic activity and as public knowledge.

  • HIH2690 Beyond Blood and Guts: Medicine from Late Antiquity to the Early Modern Period

    This module will give students an introduction to the study of medical history. The way past societies dealt with disease, illness and disability allows a more critical analysis of present-day health concerns and challenges. Students will discover that pre-modern medicine contains more than leeches or superstitions and during seminar discussions we will consider the effects of historiography on the evaluation of medical cultures. We will explore medical history through the examination of texts, images and tangible objects. The module will be assessed by a coursework portfolio of essays with the option of a practical task.