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Durham University

Department of History

Staff Profile

Barbara Hargreaves

Member of the Department of History

(email at

PhD topic: The hagiography of healthcare in twelfth-century English saints Lives.

This research considers the hagiographical articulation of matters pertaining to health, sickness and dying as expressed in the Lives of twelfth-century English saints. The aim is to to identify what the hagiographers chose to write about in their descriptions of the health and illnesses of their subjects and why they made these particular choices. This will enable the identification of themes and variations found in these healthcare narratives and allow for this to be contextualised within the aegis of changing hagiographical expression and contemporary models of sainthood in twelfth-century England.
Of necessity, this research topic will require underpinning by several cross-cutting themes in the exploration of the main area of enquiry. These include subjects such as the nature of the body, beliefs about the afterlife, the expressions of faith within a monastic community, the developing interest in and knowledge of medical science, the backgrounds against which both faith and everyday life were experienced and articulated in the twelfth century. 
Barbara comes to this research from a career in the NHS, where she worked clinically as a registered nurse and midwife before moving into managerial roles with responsibility for providing programmes of training and education for NHS hospital staff. Along the way, Barbara gained a BA (Hons) in Philosophy and Theology and a Masters degree in Theology (Medieval Church History), at Heythrop College, University of London. In 2016, she completed a Masters degree by research at Durham University, with a thesis on the subject of monastic death ritual in twelfth-century England.

Research Interests

  • Hagiography, Saints Lives and models of sainthood in the twelfth century
  • History of medicine and healthcare (from any period)
  • Monastic orders, their Rules and practices
  • Personhood, gender and the body

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