Sparky Booker is one of our newest Research Associates at the College of Arts & Humanities. A rising star in the field of Medieval Irish History, Sparky’s work explores the cultural interactions of the Irish and English in Ireland. Her PhD, which she completed at Trinity College Dublin in 2012, grappled with the issues of ancestry, legal status, language and customs in the construction of Englishness and Irishness in the colony. As an Irish Research Council postdoctoral fellow at Dublin in 2013, she was part of a project on cultural exchange in Dublin. Here she focused on marginalised or disenfranchised groups - the Irish living in the English colony - and on non-elites who are so often obscured in the historical record. Her research has also led her to consider dress and appearance in the Middle Ages, and Ireland’s links with Rome in the fifteenth century. This has meant a number of exciting research trips, and Sparky spent several weeks last year researching the records of the papal penitentiary in Rome, locating Irish petitioners seeking papal dispensations in the fifteenth century.
It was her expertise in Irish History that brought her to Swansea University in 2014. She is part of a team on the AHRC-funded project ‘Women negotiating the boundaries of justice’, a comparative historical study across Britain and Ireland. Her research examines the position of women in the courts of the English colony of late medieval Ireland, assessing how they went about pursuing justice in both ecclesiastical and secular courts and how successful they were in doing so.
Sparky is keen on engaging the public in academic research. While in Dublin, she co-founded a free public lecture series ‘Tales of Medieval Dublin’, which has run since in 2010. This series introduced its audience to 21 colourful characters who lived in the medieval city, and was published as a collection of biographical essays, Tales of Medieval Dublin. Over the past six years she has also provided free medieval walking tours of Dublin, helped to build ‘The Battle of Clontarf’ website, aimed at the general public, and contributed to many other activities as a member of the Friends of Medieval Dublin.
Outside of her research, Sparky is a keen sportswoman. She has been a member of the Irish national Ultimate Frisbee team since 2003, and is an avid fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers American football team.