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School of History

Professor Peter Denley


Professor of Medieval History



I graduated in History and Modern Languages at Oxford in 1975, and obtained my doctorate from there in 1982. I have been teaching history at Westfield/Queen Mary since 1978.

Apart from a long digression into historical computing in the 1980s and 1990s my main intellectual passion has always been medieval cultural history, which I teach especially to undergraduates.


Research Interests:

My research has focused on Italian education and specifically the Italian universities from their origins to 1500, which I have sought to place in their cultural, political and social contexts. More recently I have been comparing the Italian university system with its northern counterparts, and have become particularly interested in the legacy of the medieval universities, and what the complex manifestations of their ritual life tells us about how they were perceived. My undergraduate teaching has also led me to develop a research interest in the treatment of alterity in the middle ages. My work thus includes

  • Two monographs on the University of Siena and on pre-university education in Siena
  • Numerous comparative articles on Italian universities and education
  • 'Rotuli': a database of Italian university teachers (in progress)
  • Book of medieval university documents in translation (with Dr Sue Edgington, Dr Martin Hall and Dr Ian Wei, University of Bristol; in progress)
  • The Medieval Student Experience Project - website of sources, curated by a team of researchers and students under my direction (in progress)



  • Teachers and Schools in Siena, 1357-1500. Documenti di Storia, 78 (Siena: Betti editore, 2007)
  • Commune and Studio in Late Medieval and Renaissance Siena. Centro interuniversitario per la storia delle università italiane, Studi, 7 (Bologna: CLUEB, 2006)
  • (with Daniel Waley), Later Medieval Europe 1250-1520. 3rd edition (London: Longman-Pearson, 2001)


  • ‘Teologia, poteri, ordini, università nel tardo medioevo: aspetti istituzionali’ (‘Theology, Power, the Orders and the University in the Late Middle Ages: Institutional Aspects’), in Università, teologia e studium domenicano dal 1360 alla fine del medioevo, ed. R. Lambertini. Memorie domenicane, n.s., 45 (Florence, 2014), pp. 11-27.
  • “Medieval”, “Renaissance”, “Modern”. Issues of Periodization in Italian University History’, Renaissance Studies (link is external) (27:4 (2013), pp. 487-503)
  • ‘Academic Migration to Italy before 1500: Institutional Perspectives’, in Über Mobilität von Studenten und Gelehrten zwischen dem Reich und Italien (1400–1600) / Della mobilità degli studiosi e eruditi fra l’Impero e l’Italia (1400–1600), eds. S. Andresen and R. C. Schwinges. Repertorium Academicum Germanicum (RAG), Forschungen 1 (Zurich, 2011), pp. 19-31.
  • ‘Communes, Despots and Universities: Structures and Trends of Italian Studi to 1500’, in Communes and Despots in Medieval and Renaissance Italy (link is external), eds. John E. Law and Bernadette Paton (Farnham, 2010), pp. 295-306.
  • ‘Communities within Communities: Student Identity and Student Groups in Late Medieval Italian Universities’, in Studenti, Università, Città nella storia padovana (link is external). Atti del convegno, Padova, 6-8 febbraio 1998, eds. F. Piovan and L. Rea. Contributi alla Storia dell’Università di Padova, 34 (Triese: Edizioni LINT, 2001), pp. 721-44.

Editorial Positions


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

  • Medieval universities/medieval education
  • Alterity in the Middle Ages
  • Late Medieval Italian history
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