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

  • HIH273 Deformity, Deviance and Difference: Exploring Disability History

    There are over 11 million people with a long-term illness, impairment of disability living in the UK today, but the experiences of disabled people in the past often remain hidden from view. This module provides an introduction to the historical experiences of people with physical, sensory and intellectual impairments from medieval Europe to contemporary society. It explores the changing perception of people with disabilities over time and examines what it has meant to be 'different' in past societies. There have been people with disabilities throughout history, but what it means to be 'disabled' has changed over time. Indeed, the modern category of 'disability' as conferring a 'special needs status' on an individual is a modern invention that has developed since the late eighteenth century. This module will examine the ways in which people with disabilities have been treated in the past, and explores cultural meanings of human difference and their construction in various historical settings. It will show how attitudes towards disability have been varied and that while people with impairments have been stigmatized as 'freaks', or symbols of divine punishment, societies have also found ways of valuing human difference. Beginning with a survey of attitudes towards disability in medieval times, the module examines the development of state welfare responses to sickness and disability, changing medical approaches to impairment and debates about whether people with disabilities should be cared for in the community or inside institutions. The growth of educational provision for children with disabilities since the late eighteenth century will also be surveyed. Furthermore, the module will examine the impact of warfare and industrialization on approaches to disability and show how movements for Disability Rights emerged in the modern era. Throughout, students will be given access to the voices and experiences of people with disabilities themselves through a variety of primary source material.

  • HIH3300 History Dissertation

    The History dissertation is a free-standing, 40-credit module that runs across both semesters of Level Three. Candidates conduct research upon a subject of their choice, devised in consultation with a member of staff teaching for the degrees in History, and concerning a topic that falls within staff research and teaching interests.

  • HIH3368 The Medieval Natural World: Environments, Explorations and Encounters

    This module introduces the relationship between humans and nature that emerged in medieval Europe, together with how exploration of and discoveries in non-Western regions informed and changed such relationships. The heritage of antiquity and the pagan conception of natural history informed many medieval concepts despite the rise of a Christian world-view, which together were enhanced by new understandings of nature. Medieval Europeans used and changed their environments, and were affected by natural forces, all of which shaped the notions of what constituted 'nature' or 'the natural'. By using primary sources of the period, students will encounter the conceptual problems medieval people faced when thinking about how to make sense of the natural and the marvellous, and the boundaries in between.

  • 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.