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Dr Sophie Therese Ambler

Lecturer in Later Medieval British and European History, Deputy Director

Sophie Therese Ambler

Bowland College



Tel: +44 1524 594979

Research overview

My interest spans the central and later Middle Ages in Europe and the crusades. The two broad areas of my research are political ethics – in terms of both political thought and action on the ground – and war – in terms of both culture and individual experience. My early research falls into the first category, exploring the role of bishops in rebellion and revolution in thirteenth-century England, looking at the interaction of political thought and action in the age of Magna Carta and the Montfortian revolution. My first monograph (Bishops in the Political Community of England, 1213–1272) was published with OUP in January 2017. My recent project, a book on Simon de Montfort earl of Leicester (d.1265), spans both interests, for Montfort led a cohort of nobles in seizing power from the king and establishing a council to govern indefinitely –  England's first revolution – amassing a vast popular following, many of whom died with him on the battlefield in 1265 fighting as avowed crusaders. More broadly, this research places Montfort's career, and the way in which he cultivated his reputation, in the context of the unique and vigorous identity of the Montfort family, who operated as crusaders across Europe and the Middle East. The Song of Simon de Montfort: England's First Revolutionary and the Death of Chivalry was published by Picador in May 2019 in the UK and Commonwealth, with publication in the USA follwing with OUP in September 2019. My new area of research, supported by a Philip Leverhulme Prize, explores the experiences and cultures of low status combatants operating in the British Isles, France and Spain in the later Middle Ages, as well as the shifting patterns of thought concerned with their roles and responsibilities in conflict.


PhD supervision

I would welcome enquiries from students interested in military, political and intellectual history in the central and later Middle Ages, and specifically in the area of political thought and action, war and warfare, the Church, crusaders, and charters and diplomatic, including topics that cut across these boundaries, such as the role of religion and ethics in war.


I am Lecturer in Later Medieval British and European History, Deputy Director of the Centre for War and Diplomacy, and a Research Fellow at The Ruskin. I'm also the Director of Recruitment, Conversion and Marketing for the Department of History. My research explores political ethics and war in the central and later Middle Ages. This includes the subject of my new book, England’s first revolution, when Simon de Montfort earl of Leicester (d.1265) led a campaign to seize power from the king and establish conciliar government; I explore the religious, intellectual and military contexts that made the revolution possible. I'm a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and enjoy writing for and speaking to a broad public audience, whether through talks or TV, radio and print. In 2020, I was awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize in History.     

Career Details

I joined Lancaster in 2017; previously I was at the University of East Anglia, where I was a researcher on the AHRC's Magna Carta Project, and from 2012-13 I was a researcher on the People of Northern England databse 1216-1286, part of the AHRC's Breaking of Britain project, which explored the period leading up to the Scottish Wars of Independence. I undertook my PhD at King's College London with joint supervision at University College London, and was Thornley Fellow at the Institute of Historical Research. I'm a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and secretary of the Pipe Roll Society, and enjoy writing for and speaking to a broader public audience, whether through talks or TV, radio and print

Current Teaching

I teach a special subject, 'From Rebellion to Revolution: The War for the Throne, 1199-1265' (HIST316), and other undergraduate courses on 'Crusade and Jihad: Holy War in the Middle East, 1095-1254' (HIST208) and '1415' (a 'Dates' module for HIST119 covering the Battle of Agincourt to Joan of Arc for first year historians), as well as delivering lectures on the central and later Middle Ages on the first year core course (HIST100). I also convene the MA module 'Warfare in the Medieval World, 1100-1500' (HIST444) as part of the MA International and Military History and MA History (Medieval and Early Modern pathway). 

Web Links

'Simon de Montfort's Medieval Revolution'. This podcast for BBC History Extra explores the dramatic life of Simon de Montfort, the thirteenth-century crusader and revolutionary who battled Henry III for mastery in England and established a radical form of government, before he was cut down at the Battle of Evesham in 1265. 

'Why Parliament Works'. This conversation, with Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, explores the emergence of parliament in the thirteenth century, from Magna Carta to Simon de Montfort's Revolution to the 1297 Statute on Tallage. It is part of the 'Why Parliament Works' podcast, produced by the Cabinet Office, which explores some of the less understood aspects of the UK’s parliamentary democracy. 

'Simon de Montfort and England's First Revolution'. This talk from the BBC History Weekend 2019, available as a podcast, charts Simon de Montfort's career as crusader and revolutionary across thirteenth-century Christendom. 

'What to do with a failing government: A medieval solution'. You believe your government is failing in its duty, whether it has overstepped the bounds of lawful rule or is just incompetent. What action can you take? This Department of History taster talk explores how people in the Middle Ages tackled these challenges – from the right to depose tyrants and remove useless rulers, to rebellion and revolution, and the war for the throne that ravaged thirteenth-century England.

External Roles

  • Co-convenor of the Late Medieval Seminar at the Institute of Historical Research.
  • Secretary of the Pipe Roll Society. Founded at the Public Record Office (now The National Archives) in 1883, the PRS is dedicated to publishing editions of the pipe rolls of the Exchequer and of other medieval documents. The Society welcomes new members: all members are entitled to a copy of each volume when published (and a reduced rate for any additional copies).
  • Trustee of Lowther Castle and Gardens Trust. The Castle and Gardens are a treasure of the English Lake District, with dramatic ruins, gardens within gardens and an adventure playground. They welcome visitors throughout the year. 
  • North West Chair of The Battlefields Trust. The Trust is a registered charity dedicated to the proection, promotion and interpretation of Britain's battlefields. The Trust welcomes new members, whose membership helps to preserve these sites for everyone to understand and enjoy. Members receive a quarterly magazine and enjoy a nationwide programme of walks, talks and events.


Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

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