School of History

Dr Eyal Poleg


Senior Lecturer in Material History

Telephone: 020 7882 8366
Room Number: ArtsTwo 3.33
Office Hours: (Summer Term):


The meeting point of religious history and material culture is at he heart of my work. Looking at medieval and early modern books and artefacts, I ask how did faith evolve, and how the material evidence can inform our understanding of faith and society. This combination first arose from a BA in history and photography and an MA in Comparative Religion at Jerusalem. A doctorate in London and a subsequent British Academy (link is external) postdoctoral fellowship in Edinburgh have nurtured this passion, and opened new directions for investigation.


Material History of the Bible in England, 1200-1600 - series of public lectures at Cambridge University Library. [PDF 454KB]


Research Interests:

Having worked on the ways in which the Dome of the Rock – an impressive Muslim structure dominating Jerusalem’s skyline – was transformed during the Crusades, I became interested in the medieval and early modern Bible. More specifically: How did people get to know their Bible? Nowadays, nearly no one reads the Bible. Most people, however, know something about it through TV programmes, novels or Sunday School. This situation would have been familiar to most people in the Middle Ages. Then, the majority of the population knew the Bible through sermons, church murals, liturgy, etc. In order to fully appreciate such complex means of access, I developed the concept of biblical mediation as a focal point for my scholarly analysis.

Exploring the medieval and early modern Bible, I have found myself tackling a long-lived Reformation paradigm. It is commonly assumed that the Bible was heavily guarded during the Middle Ages, with direct access restored to the laity only in early modernity, with moveable-type print and the proliferation of vernacular translations. In my work I wish to show the fallacy of this assumption on different levels, from clerical control in the Middle Ages, to the non-existent ‘direct access to Scriptures’.

Beyond the Bible, I am currently investigating a phenomenon tentatively called ‘Inanimate Conversion’. This is the way sacred objects – books, buildings or liturgical paraphernalia – changed hands during the Middle Ages. Specifically, how Jews, Christians and Muslims appropriated and modified one another’s objects. Still in early stages, preliminary investigations have revealed a staggering wealth of objects and documents, which necessitates developing new methodologies and asking new questions. With the rise of current controversies over such building (for example on Hagia Sofia, these are questions worth asking. 


Select publications


Approaching the Bible in Medieval England (link is external), Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013

(ed. with Laura Light) Form and Function in the Late Medieval Bible (link is external), Library of the Written Word: The Manuscript World, Leiden:Brill, 2013


“On the Books of Maccabees: An Unpublished Poem by Geoffrey, Prior of the Templum Domini”, Crusades (link is external) 9 (2010), pp. 13-56

“‘A ladder set up on the earth’: The Bible in Medieval Sermons”, The Practice of the Bible in the Middle Ages: Production, Reception, and Performance in Western Christianity (link is external), ed. Susan Boynton and Diane Reilly, New York: Columbia University Press, 2011, pp. 205-227

 Farkas Gábor Kiss, Eyal Poleg, Lucie Doležalová, Rafał Wójcik, “Old Light on New Media: Medieval Practices in a Digital Ages”, Digital Philology: A Journal of Medieval Cultures (link is external)  2.1 (Spring 2013), 16–34

“Wycliffite Bibles as Orthodoxy”, Instructing the Soul, Feeding the Spirit and Awakening the Passion. Cultures of Religious Reading in the Late Middle Ages (link is external) (Utrecht Studies in Medieval Literacy), ed. Sabrina Corbellini, Turnhout:Brepols, 2013, pp. 71-91

“The Mother and Seven Brothers in Two Very Different Crusading Narratives”, Jewish-non-Jewish Relations: An Online Teaching Resource (link is external) ed. Maria Diemling and Hannah Holtschneider


Jeremy Cohen, “Sanctifying the Name of God: Jewish Martyrs and Jewish Memories of the First Crusade”, Jewish Culture and History (link is external) 10:1 (Summer 2008), 115-17


I welcome applications from candidates wishing to undertake doctoral research in the following areas:

  • Religion and Material Culture
  • English Religious History (1100-1600)
  • The Medieval Bible
  • Digital Medievalism

I am also leading Queen Mary's MA and PhD students taking part in the Digital Editing of Medieval Manuscripts programme, supported by the European Research Council (link is external)