I am a Research Officer in medieval history, specialising in the social history of Britain, especially England and Wales, during the central Middle Ages (c. 1000-1300). In particular, I am fascinated by the intersections of gender, locality and class attendant upon the actions and experiences of the female members of the greater Marcher families before the conquest of Wales in 1282. My most recent work looked at women’s litigation and the interaction of different legal systems at the Anglo-Welsh border, and resulting publications include an article in English Historical Review and a prize-winning essay in the recently founded Mortimer History Society Journal – the latter aimed at bringing academic scholarship to a wider readership.

Most recently I have begun working on in Jewish women’s litigation in England before 1290. I was recently awarded funding from the British Academy/Leverhulme Small Grants scheme and the Jewish Historical Society of England to pilot a study of Jewish litigants, men and women, in England before 1290 and to explore the northwest European context up to the Black Death.

I am a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a member of MEMO, the Swansea Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Research.

Areas of Expertise

  • aristocracies and frontier in the British Isles 1000-1300
  • women and gender in medieval Britain
  • medieval Wales and Anglo-Welsh relations before 1300
  • medieval law and litigation
  • Jewish communities in England and northwest Europe before 1350


  1. Cavell, E. 'Women, Memory and the Genesis of a Priory in Norman Monmouth'. In S.D. Church (Ed.), Anglo-Norman Studies XLII. Proceedings of the Battle Conference 2019 (pp. 45-60). The Boydell Press
  2. Cavell, E. 'Emma d'Audley and the clash of laws in thirteenth-century Northern Powys'. In Patricia Skinner (Ed.), The Welsh and the Medieval World. Travel, Migration and ExileUniversity of Wales Press
  3. Cavell, E. Widows, native law and the long shadow of England in thirteenth-century Wales*. The English Historical Review, 133(565), 1387-1419.
  4. Cavell, E. Periphery to core: Mortimer women and the negotiation of the king's justice in the thirteenth-century March of Wales. Journal of the Mortimer History Society, 2, 1-19.
  5. Cavell, E. 'Intelligence and intrigue in the March of Wales: noblewomen and the fall of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, 1274-1282'. Historical Research, 88(239), 1-19.

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  • HI-M90 Enmity and Entanglement: the Jews of Medieval England, 1066-1290

    This module explores the lives, activities and experiences of England¿s Jewish population between their arrival in England, at some point during the reign of William the Conqueror, and the year of their final expulsion from England by Edward I (1290). It focuses not simply on the Jews¿ economic activities and prominent individual money-lenders, on which much of our historiography centres, but also on the everyday lives of ordinary Jews, the shared and contested spaces they inhabited among the majority Christian population, their litigation (a much neglected subject), the role of gender, and much more. It will span as much of their lives as possible: marriage, sex and divorce; work; religious beliefs and practice; their experience and use of the law; and how they were depicted in English sources (from chronicle references to caricatures sketched the margins of English governmental documents). It will not assume that Jews lived miserable lives characterised by Christian hostility and persecution, however. Drawing on a range of primary sources, we will consider variables across lifecycle, social status, gender, as well as changes over time, as royal attitudes and policy evolved and the Jewish communities ebbed and flowed.

  • 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.

  • HIH2019 Gendering the Middle Ages: Power and Exclusion

    This module introduces gender theory as it has been applied to medieval culture. It traces the development of gender studies from early attempts at medieval women's history through successive `waves¿ of feminist studies, to gendered approaches which broadened considerations to include masculinity, sexuality and transgender identities. Exploring case studies from the 5th to the 15th centuries, the course will introduce students to the processes by which many voices have been excluded from traditional medieval histories, offering an alternative view from the perspective of the disempowered.

  • HIH281 History Work Placement

    This module enables students to gain professional work experience in a setting that is typical of the types of graduate careers that History students pursue. Placements are expected to offer graduate level work with the possibility (where relevant) of students being allocated to a specific project within the workplace. Prior to beginning their placement, students will complete a series of workshops that will introduce various professional skills, explore the range of History graduate careers and the skills and attributes they are developing as part of their degree, and offer opportunities to reflect on their own personal development, self-awareness and mindset in relation to future career goals. This will be supplemented by practical workshops during the placement period to develop skills in writing CVs, applications and personal statements, interviews, and reflective practice. Teaching will be tied in to the SEA award allowing students to complete appropriate levels of the award (bronze and silver).

  • HIH3377 A History of Sex and Gender

    This module explores the history of sex and gender across a multitude of sites since the Medieval period, examining how and why understandings and ideologies changed. This module looks at the history of sex and gender from a social and cultural perspective, drawing out connections with class and race. It explores how ideas of masculinity and femininity have changed over time, how gender has impacted on social, economic and political life, and how dominant ideologies of gender relate to the experience of men¿s and women¿s daily lives. The module will also analyse changing attitudes towards sexuality and demonstrate how modern sexual identities are the product of historical processes rather than fixed and unchanging. Students will be introduced to the key historiographical debates around the history of gender and to the core challenges that drive historians while researching these vital themes.

  • HIL227 Medieval Britain 1250-1461

    This module focuses on British history, 1250-1520, and investigates the relationship between the peoples of England, France, Scotland, Ireland and Wales during a period of intense warfare. It considers issues of domination, conquest, nationalism, patriotism and ethnicity, and looks at the nation as a social, economic and cultural unit (eg. the rise of the English language as a political and literary medium). By looking at the Jews and those termed `alien¿ in England, it also reflects on attitudes towards the `other¿ in medieval society.

  • HIMD00 Medieval Studies Dissertation

    A dissertation of 15,000 - 20,000 words written on a topic decided by the student in consultation with the dissertation supervisor. This represents Part Two of the MA programme in Medieval Studies.

  • HIMM01 Introduction to Advanced Medieval Studies 1: Skills and Approaches

    This module introduces students to recent and current trends in medieval studies, to the research skills required for MA-level research, and to the medieval heritage of South Wales and the surrounding region. Seminars will consider the nature of medieval sources and texts, and a selection of themes that have made a significant impact upon medieval studies in recent years.

  • HIMM02 Research Folder

    A course designed to help students to identify their dissertation subject, to prepare for it bibliographically, and to plan its research and writing.

  • HIMM07 Medieval Studies Placement

    This module allows students on the MA Medieval Studies to gain experience of working in a setting which is representative of the types of careers which graduates from the programme pursue. Students will benefit from workshops before and during the placement on employability skills, will have the opportunity to complete the appropriate level of the SEA award, and will develop skills in writing CVs, applications, and being interviewed. Placements are expected to offer graduate level work and students may be allocated to a specific project.

External Responsibilities

  • Fellow , Royal Historical Society

    2012 - Present

Key Grants and Projects

  • ‘Discord and Dispute Resolution: Litigating Jews in England, c. 1150-1290: a pilot study’ 2018 - 2020

    British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grant, and Jewish Historical Society of England Research Grant

Research Groups

  • Rethinking the Medieval Frontier

    Coordinated by Dr Jonathan Jarrett at the University of Leeds, this network aims, through the exploration of medieval frontiers of any and all geographical regions, to develop more flexible models of frontier than currently exist. For more visit https://rethinkingthefrontier.leeds.ac.uk