Home research cultural Centre for Nordic Studies Staff Dr Victoria Whitworth MA, D. Phil, FSA, FSA Scot.

Dr Victoria Whitworth MA, D. Phil, FSA, FSA Scot.

Lecturer in Nordic Studies, Visiting Fellow in the School of Archaeology at Newcastle University 

Centre for Nordic Studies
University of the Highlands and Islands
Kiln Corner
KW15 1QX

e: victoria.whitworth@uhi.ac.uk
d: +44 (0)1856 569300

Full research profile on the Research Database RD.jpg


Victoria WhitworthDr Victoria Whitworth specialises in interdisciplinary study of Early Medieval Britain. These days she calls herself a visual historian, as a way of emphasising her fascination with material culture and symbolic imagery, and their interplay with texts of all kinds, while stopping short of claiming to be either an archaeologist or art historian. Her doctoral research and subsequent publications were on the development of the concept of Christian burial and associated beliefs and practices in Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Scandinavian England. Latterly, she has been most beguiled by the ninth to eleventh century stone sculpture of Britain, Ireland and Scandinavia, and the complex evidence for social and cultural relations embedded therein.

Under the name V.M.Whitworth, she also writes historical thrillers set in the tenth century, and she is increasingly interested from an academic point of view in the interface between writing history and writing historical fiction, and in the potential of using the creative imagination as a research tool.

Academic Responsibilities

Dr Whitworth teaches the following MLitt courses:

    • Medieval History of Orkney and Shetland
    • Modern History of Orkney and Shetland
    • Medieval Literatures of the Highlands and Islands

    She also contributes to:

    • Runology and Old Norse Studies
    • Gender in Viking Society
    • Viking History of the Scottish Islands

    External Responsibilities and Memberships

    • Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London
    • Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland
    • Visiting Fellow in the School of Archaeology, Newcastle University

    Selected Publications

    (NB My publications prior to 2006 appeared under my former name, Victoria Thompson)



    • Bodystones and Guardian Beasts: The Recumbent Grave-Markers of Middle Britain c.800-c.1100 (Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2016).
    • Vikings in Stone? The Human Image in the Art of Northumbria c.800-1100 (Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2017).
    • The Wolf Pack [working title] (Head of Zeus, forthcoming 2016)

    Refereed Articles

    • ‘The Sites, Power and Politics of Death’, in A. Kinch (ed.), The Bloomsbury Cultural History of Death: Volume Five, The Middle Ages (Bloomsbury, forthcoming 2016).
    • ‘With Book and Cross: A Reading of the Sculptural Assemblage from Stonegrave, Ryedale, North Yorkshire’, in C. Newman, M. Mannion and F. Gavin (eds.), Islands in a global context: Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Insular Art (Four Courts Press, forthcoming summer 2016).


    • ‘Terror, Death and Transformation: The Pictish Recumbent Grave-Markers in Their Wider Context’, Groam House Museum Annual Academic Lecture 2015 (Groam House Museum, forthcoming 2015)

    In Print


    • The Traitors’ Pit (Ebury Press, 2013).
    • Dying and Death in Later Anglo-Saxon England, (Woodbridge, 2004, re-issued in paperback 2012).
    • The Bone Thief (Ebury Press, 2012).


    Refereed Articles

    •  ‘A Cross-Head from St Mary Castlegate, York, and Its Affiliations’, in M. F. Reed (ed.), in BAR 542 New Voices on Early Medieval Sculpture (Oxford, 2011).
    • ‘The Pastoral Contract in Late Anglo-Saxon England: Priest and Parishioner in Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Laud Miscellaneous 482’, in F. Tinti (ed.), Pastoral Care in Late Anglo-Saxon England (Woodbridge, 2005).
    • ‘Memory, Salvation and Ambiguity: A Consideration of Some Anglo-Scandinavian Grave-stones from York’ in Archaeologies of Remembrance: Death and Memory in Past Societies, ed. H. Williams (New York, 2003).
    • ‘The View from the Edge: Dying, Power and Vision in Late Saxon England’ in Boundaries in Early Medieval Britain, Anglo-Saxon Studies in Archaeology and History and Archaeology 12, ed. D. Griffiths, A. Reynolds and S. Semple (Oxford, 2003).
    • ‘Women, Power and Protection in Tenth and Eleventh Century England’, in N. Menuge (ed.), Medieval Women and the Law (Woodbridge, 2000).
    • ‘Kingship in Death in the Bayeux Tapestry’, Reading Medieval Studies 25 (1999).


    I have also reviewed books for a wide range of journals, including:

    • Speculum: N. Marafioti, The King’s Body: Burial and Succession in Late Anglo-Saxon England (Toronto, 2014)
    • The Journal of Theological Studies: C. Maddern, Raising the Dead: Early Medieval Name Stones in Northumbria (Turnhout, 2013)
    • Saga-Book: L. Kopár, Gods and Settlers: The Iconography of Norse Mythology in Anglo-Scandinavian Sculpture (Turnhout, 2012)
    • English Historical Review: M. Bintley, Trees in the Religions of Early Medieval England (Woodbridge, 2015)
    • Antiquity: R, Cramp, The Hirsel Excavations  (London, 2014); T. Martin, Cruciform Brooches and Anglo-Saxon England (Woodbridge, 2015)
    • Fornvännen: M. H. Karnell Gotland’s Picture Stones: Bearers of an Enigmatic Legacy (Visby, 2012)
    • Early Medieval Europe: J. Kershaw, Viking Identities: Scandinavian Jewellery in England (Oxford, 2013); T. Williamson, Environment, Society and Landscape in Early Medieval England(Woodbridge, 2013)


    • 2015

      Invited Speaker:

      • University of Cambridge, Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic: ‘Bears, Beasts and Relatives: A new reading of early medieval ‘hogback’ gravestones’
      • University of Oxford, Institute of Archaeology: ‘Bears, Beasts and Relatives’
      • University of Leicester, School of History: ‘Unlikely Heroes and Plausible Heroines: Historical Fiction as a Way of Getting Academic Research out into the Wider World’
      • Groam House Museum, Annual Academic Lecture: ‘Bodystones and Guardian Beasts: The Pictish Recumbent Grave-Markers in Their Wider Context’
      • International Medieval Congress, University of Leeds: Round Table, ‘Creative Writing and the Middle Ages’


      • Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference, University of Leicester: ‘Layering the fictive past: the possibilities evoked by writing awareness of Roman Britain into viking-age historical fiction’
      • Runes, Monuments and Memorial Carvings Network Workshop, University of Glasgow: ‘The Guardian Beasts of Govan: Creation and Recreation of a Monumental Landscape’
      • 29th Irish Conference of Medievalists, University College Dublin: ‘Adoring Lions and Glamorous Bosses: a sculptural hint at the Cult of St Columba in Tenth-century York’
      • International Medieval Congress, University of Leeds: ‘Death, Memory and George Bain’s Commemorative Renewing of the Book of Kells’



      • International Congress of Celtic Studies, Glasgow, July 2015
      • Tuotilo: Archaeology of an Early Medieval Artist, St Gallen, Switzerland, August 2015
      • ‘Stone Across Time and Space’, European Archaeological Association, Glasgow, September 2015
      • Theoretical Archaeology Group, Bradford, December 2015

    • 2014:

      Invited Speaker:

      • Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland: ‘Bears, Beasts and Relatives’
      • University of Glasgow, School of Archaeology: ‘Bears, Beasts and Relatives’
      • Pictish Arts Society, ‘The Skinnet  and Ulster Cross-slabs and the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew’
      • University of Leeds, Institute of Medieval Studies: ‘Unlikely Heroes and Plausible Heroines’
      • Caithness Horizons Museum, Thurso, Public Lecture on Pictish Art as part of their Year of Ancient Ancestors programme


      • University of Leeds, International Medieval Congress: ‘The Empire of Iona: a Columban context for a tenth-century cross from York’
      • NUI Galway, 7th Insular Art Conference: ‘From Book Satchel to Book of Life: a reading of the tenth-century sculpture from Stonegrave, N. Yorks.’
      • University College Dublin, Cultures of Stone: ‘Bodies, Stones and Prayer: the hogbacked stones of early medieval Britain in their cultural and ritual context’
      • University of Turku, Finland, Images of Afterlife: ‘Building Jerusalem in Tenth-century Yorkshire’
      • Gender and Medieval Studies, University of Winchester: ‘Evidence of Female Patronage on a Tenth-Century Cross from York’



      Invited Speaker

      • University of St Andrews, School of History: “Sculptural Evidence for the Presence of Irish Clerics in 10th and 11th Century Northumbria’
      • Newcastle University, School of History, Classics and Archaeology: ‘What can the Stonegrave Cross tell us about the Viking Age Church in Northumbria?’
      • University of York, Department of Archaeology: ‘The Gems Fallen, The Body Broken: Attitudes to Furnished Burial in Later Anglo-Saxon England’
      • University of York, Centre for Medieval Studies: ‘“Playing around with history”: Why write historical fiction?’
      • York Anglo-Scandinavian Society: ‘Chasing Relics: how I turned a chapter of my doctoral thesis into “a thrilling tale of Anglo-Saxon adventure”’



      • 2nd Death in Scotland Conference, ‘From the Medieval to the Modern, Beliefs, Attitudes and Practices’: ‘The King Who Died in Kirkwall: The Deathbed and Afterlife of Hakon IV of Norway’
      • Bath Spa University, Gender and Medieval Studies: ‘Beyond the Middleton Warrior: Women and Men on the Stone Sculpture of Northern England in the Ninth to Eleventh Centuries’
      • University of Kent, Me Fieri Fecit: The Role and Representation of Owners, Donors and Patrons: ‘Donor Portraits in Viking Age Sculpture’
      • University of Leeds, International Medieval Congress: ‘Nude Humility and Salvific Clothing: Christ, Adam and Eve on a Viking Age Cross from Barwick in Elmet, W. Yorks.’
      • University of Chester, 2nd Runes, Monuments and Memorial Carvings Network Workshop: ‘Sermons in Stone? Author and Audience at Barwick-in-Elmet, West Yorkshire’

    ADMINISTRATIVE AND MANAGEMENT EXPERIENCE (current and most recent only)

    Currently co-organising the third interdisciplinary ‘Death in Scotland’ conference, to be held in Edinburgh in Jan/Feb 2016

     Currently organising an eight-paper strand, ‘Stone Across Time and Space’ at the European Archaeological Association Conference (September 2015)


    Leeds International Medieval Congress

    • Organised session: Revival and Renewal: New Uses for Old Stories and Patterns in the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries

    29th Irish Conference of Medievalists

    • Organised session: The Afterlives of St Columba



    2014 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada: Member of the advisory panel assessing the merit of an application entitled ‘The visionary cross project:  leveraging the intellectual, educational, and economic potential of digital cultural heritage research’.


    Anonymous peer reviews

    Networks and Neighbours (http://www.networksandneighbours.org/index.php/n ).

    Medieval Archaeology



    • Runes, Monuments and Memorial Carvings (Workshops: Uppsala 2011; Chester 2013; Glasgow 2015)
    • Developing new network with colleagues at Leicester and Durham on the pedagogical and research potential of deploying fiction, film, storytelling and graphic novels within the academy.

    Suggested PhD topics

    Dr Whitworth is happy to supervise interdisciplinary studies of Viking Age art and material culture in Britain, Ireland and Scandinavia. She also welcomes proposals on all aspects of death-related behaviour within the conversion and Christian periods in Early Medieval Britain.