Robin Chapman Stacey

  • Professor
  • Joff Hanauer Honors Professor in Western Civilization

Ph.D. Yale University, 1986

Fields: Medieval Europe, Celtic History, Women, Gender
Phone: 206-543-9418
Office: SMI 106 | Office Hours: On Leave

I am an historian of the European Middle Ages focusing particularly on Ireland, Wales, and England from the Iron Age through the thirteenth century, and I have been at the University of Washington since 1988.  I hold graduate degrees from Yale and Oxford, and my particular academic interest is law, especially the vernacular laws of Ireland and Wales. Over the years, my research has come to center on three main issues within the field of medieval Irish and Welsh law:  legal education, law and its relationship to language (particularly the vernacular), and the literary aspects of legal writing.  I have also written on the subject of women in the medieval period, and have recently begun teaching and publishing as well on the mythology of J.R.R. Tolkien.  My regular lecture class rotation features courses on the early and high middle ages, Celtic civilizations, medieval women, and Tolkien, and I have taught undergraduate seminars in these and other fields, including law, heresy, sanctity, and kingship.  In addition to my appointment in History, I am an Adjunct Professor in the Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies department; I have also worked frequently with graduate students from English and Comparative Literatures. 

My first book, The Road to Judgment:  From Custom to Court in Medieval Ireland and Wales (Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1994), examined the Irish and Welsh institution of personal suretyship, situating it in its appropriate social context and tracing the integration of such “private law” enforcing mechanisms into the emergent court system of the high middle ages.  My second book, Dark Speech:  The Performance of Law in Early Ireland (Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 2007), focused on the role played by speech and performance in ensuring social order in early medieval Ireland.  My current book project, Law and the Imagination in Medieval Wales, examines the literary and political aspects of the Welsh lawbooks, arguing that they are best read not as objective (if idealized) records of native custom but, rather, as important and often humorous commentaries on thirteenth-century Welsh politics.  In addition, I am the author of more than twenty articles on a variety of subjects pertaining to medieval Ireland, Wales, and England, including divorce, law and memory, riddles, and legal education.  My research has been supported over the years by grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, All Souls College Oxford, and the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies; my books have received prizes from the Medieval Academy of America, the American Conference for Irish Studies, and the Board of Celtic Studies of the University of Wales.

I am a Past President of the Celtic Studies Association of North America, have served on the Board of Directors of the American Society for Legal History, and am a past Councillor and Executive Board member of the Medieval Academy of America.  I serve on several editorial boards, including Law and History Review, the Celtic Studies Association of North America Yearbook, and Welsh History Review, and am a past winner of the Distinguished Teaching Award at UW.  

HSTAM 235, "Medieval Myths and Mysteries"

HSTAM 276 "Celtic Civilizations

HSTAM 331 "Early Middle Ages"

HSTAM 332 "High Middle Ages"

HSTAM 340 "Medieval Women"

HSTEU 370 "Reading Tolkien"

I also teach a variety of junior and senior seminars; past subjects include:

"Concepts of Sanctity in the European Middle Ages"

"Heresy and Society in the Middle Ages"

"Medieval Kings and Queens"

"Reading Tolkien"

"Into the Greenwood:  between Myth and History in Medieval Europe"

"Law and Society in the Middle Ages"

"Women in Medieval Christianity"


Hywel in the World,” forthcoming in the Haskins Society Journal (2008).

“Legal Writing in Medieval Wales: Damweiniau I,” forthcoming from Oxford University Press in Walesand the Wider World: Lectures in Honour of Rees Davies.

Dark Speech: The Performance of Law in Early Ireland (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007).
*Winner, James S. Donnelly, Sr. Prize for Books on History and Social Sciences, American Conference for Irish Studies

"Learning to Plead in Medieval Welsh Law," in Studia Celtica, 38 (2004): pp. 107-24.

"Law and Memory in Early Ireland," The Oxford O’Donnell Lecture for 2003, The Journal of Celtic Studies, 4 (2004): pp. 43-69.

"Instructional Riddles in Welsh Law," in Heroic Poets and Poetic Heroes: A Festschrift for Patrick K. Ford, ed. Leslie Jones and Joseph Falaky Nagy (Four Courts Press, 2004), pp. 336-43.

"Law and Literature in Ireland and Wales," in Literature and Society in the Celtic Lands, ed. Helen Fulton (Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2005).

"Satire and its Socio-Legal Role," in Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia, ed. John Koch (ABC CLIO, Santa Barbara, Denver, Oxford, 2006), pp. 1560-1566.

"Dyfnwal Moelmud," forthcoming in The New Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press).

"Texts and Society," in After Rome: The Oxford History of the British 
, ed. T.M. Charles-Edwards (Oxford University Press, 2003), 220-57.

"Irish Native Law," Reader's Guide to British History, ed. David Loades, 2 vols (New York and London, Fitzroy Dearborn, 2003), 714-15.

"Welsh Law (Native and Canon)," Reader's Guide to British History, ed. David Loades, 2 vols (New York and London, Fitzroy Dearborn, 2003), 1348-49. 

"Divorce, Medieval Welsh Style," Speculum 77, October, 2002, 1107-1127.

"Speaking in Riddles," in Próinséas Ní Chatháin and Michael Richter, Ireland 
and Europe in the Early Middle Ages: Texts and Transmission/Irland und 
Europa im fruheren Mittelalter: Texte und Uberlieferung
 (Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2002), pp. 243-248.

"King, Queen, and Edling in the "Laws of Court," in T.M. Charles-Edwards and M. Owen, eds., The Welsh King and his Court (University of Wales Press, 2000), pp. 15-62.

"Clothes Talk from Medieval Wales," in Charles-Edwards and Owen, The Welsh King and his Court, pp. 338-46.

The Making of England to 1399, C. Warren Hollister, Robert Stacey, and Robin Chapman Stacey (Houghton Mifflin, 2000).

The Road to Judgment: From Custom to Court in Medieval Ireland and Wales. Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994.

"Law and Order in the Very Old West: England and Ireland in the Early Middle Ages," in Crossed Paths: Methodological Approaches to the Celtic Aspect of the European Middles Ages. New York and London: Lanham, 1991.

"Beowulf and the Bureaucrats," Journal of British Studies 30:1 (January, 1991): pp. 83-99.

"Ties that Bind: Immunities in Irish and Welsh Law," in Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies, 20 (Winter, 1990): pp. 39-60.

"The Archaic Core of Llyfr Iorwerth," in T.M. Charles-Edwards, M. Owen and D. Walters, eds., Lawyers and Laymen (Cardiff, 1986), pp. 15-46.

"Berrad Airechta: An Old-Irish Tract on Suretyship," in Lawyers and Laymen, pp. 210-33. (Translation with notes.)