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Tauhere UC Connect talk: Medieval History in Ōtautahi

09 October 2023

As the University of Canterbury (UC) celebrates its 150th year, two historians will investigate medieval links in modern Ōtautahi Canterbury via a 600-year-old document.


The Canterbury Roll is a five-metre-long 15th century genealogical text. Created nearly six centuries ago, it was subsequently modified on a number of occasions in the course of the English civil war known as the Wars of the Roses.

Created in the late 1420s to early 1430s and purchased by the University of Canterbury in 1918, the Canterbury Roll remained difficult to access until its publication as a digitised edition by Canterbury University Press in 2017. Since then, it has become the focus of the Canterbury Roll Project, a joint venture between UC and Nottingham Trent University in the United Kingdom.

On Monday 16 October, a free, livestreamed Tauhere UC Connect public lecture will focus on two strands of the ongoing investigation into the Roll, presented by two UC historians.

UC historian Dr Madi Williams (Ngāti Kuia, Ngāti Kōata) will explore concepts of place, space, and identity in Te Ao Māori (the Māori world) and the medieval world. Using the Roll as an example, she will discuss the synergies and divergences between these two worlds and their conceptions.

“These synergies can contribute to a new way of approaching the study of medieval history in New Zealand,” Dr Williams says.

UC historian Dr Chris Jones will examine the way the Roll has opened new doors on the exploration of similar documents in the United Kingdom. Much of this new scientific analysis has been carried out in partnership with Nottingham Trent University, and in 2022 it saw the team working on the Roll receive the UK’s Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education in Advancing Cultural Heritage Science.

“At the same time, new work is emerging on the significance of the Roll as a cultural artefact,” he says. “This ranges from re-assessments of how it was used to its treatment of Biblical history.”


About the speakers:

Dr Madi Williams (Ngāti Kuia, Ngāti Kōata) is a Lecturer in Aotahi: School of Māori and Indigenous Studies at the University of Canterbury. Her 2021 book Polynesia, 900-1600, looks at the European Middle Ages in South PolynesiaShe is currently working on transforming her PhD thesis into a book on Ngāti Kuia pūrākau and history.

Dr Chris Jones FSA is an Associate Professor in Medieval History at the University of Canterbury. He is particularly interested in medieval and Early Modern legacies in Aotearoa New Zealand. Chris is Director of the Wicked Bible Project and Co-Director of the Canterbury Roll Project; a student-led digital venture that has produced an innovative new edition and translation of New Zealand’s most significant medieval manuscript. Chris is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London and of the Royal Historical Society.

  • Tauhere UC Connect public lecture: Medieval History in Ōtautahi presented by Dr Madi Williams and Dr Chris Jones, Faculty of Arts, University of Canterbury, from 7pm–8pm, Monday 16 October 2023, in C1, Central lecture theatres at the University of Canterbury, Ilam, Christchurch.
  • Register to attend free at: Tauhere UC Connect talks are also livestreamed on the UC Facebook page, and made available to watch on our YouTube channel.

Media contact
  • Email
  • Phone: (03) 369 3631 or 027 503 0168
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