Dr Frederik Pedersen

Dr Frederik Pedersen
Dr Frederik Pedersen
Dr Frederik Pedersen

Senior Lecturer

Email Address
Telephone Number
+44 (0)1224 272464
Office Address

School of Divinity, History and Philosophy,
Crombie Annexe,
Meston Walk,
King's College,
University of Aberdeen,
Old Aberdeen,
AB24 3FX.
Room: G04

School of Divinity, History, Philosophy & Art History


Frederik is the President Emeritus of the European Academy of Religion, a world-wide research network with its secretariat in Bologna.

Frederik’s research has two main focuses: Scandinavian and Baltic history and the history of marriage. His publications are evenly divided between the Viking Age, Scandinavian Secular Law, the History of the German Hanse and the History of the Reception of Medieval Canon Law.  

Frederik has always been keen to ensure that his work is accessible to a large audience, both in style and in content. He has good connections with the media and is adept at disseminating his research outwith specialised academia. He is an experienced media commentator on issues relating to mediaeval social history and gender, and Viking history. Not only has he addressed academic audiences at Harvard Law School, The Max-Planck Institute for Comparative Law (Frankfurt am Main), Toronto, Oxford, Copenhagen, and Cambridge, but he has also been invited to appear on Woman’s Hour and his appearances on television and radio programmes have included Melvyn Bragg’s BBC Radio 4 programme In Our Time, David Aaronovitch’s BBC Radio 4 series The Viking Way, Phillip Adams, Late Night Live (Radio National, ABC, Australia), the Andy Peebles show (BBC Radio North), and Bettany Hughes’ Channel 4 series Seven Ages of Britain. He has also been an advisor on television series, such as Neil Oliver’s Vikings and Robert Bartlett’s Inside The Mind of the Middle Ages. In 2014 he was an invited keynote speaker at Politics, Patronage and Prostitution: The Experiences of Medieval Women, a ‘Special Interest Event’ at Christ Church Oxford where he spoke on the subject of 'Love and Marriage in the Middle Ages'. He is the author of many articles on mediaeval law and marriage for The Conversation and The Medieval Magazine. His work has also appeared in the Danish Medical Bulletin. Currently he is planning a series of appearances to present cases from his research at the Aberdeen ‘The Word’ festival (held annually in May) under the title ‘Tales from the Crypt: the York mediaeval Church Courts Look at Marital Fidelity’.

His work has an impact on a wide constituency: among academic scholars he has made significant contributions to legal history, women’s studies, gender studies, mediaeval history, political history, social history, demography, economic history, and urban history. Among the more general interest groups his work is of significance to local historians and genealogists and those with an interest in the cultural history of marriage.

Frederik has extensive experience in dealing with mediaeval legal records and a broad knowledge of mediaeval legal history. Since graduating from the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies in Toronto, he has published many scholarly articles and a monograph drawing on evidence from the courts of mediaeval York. In addition, he has published more generally on legal, social, and demographic issues in mediaeval Scandinavian law, on the marriage-breakup of King Philip II of France and on the development of marriage-law and theology from apostolic times to the fourteenth century. He translated the 12th-century Law of Scania from Danish to English as part of the mediaeval Nordic Laws project at Aberdeen, and has translated three monographs on Scandinavia and crusades, mediaeval Danish law, and a biography of the legal philosopher Alf Ross from Danish to English. By invitation from Bloomsbury Academic publishers he edits the second volume, The Medieval Age, 500—1500, of their six-volume series The Cultural History of Marriage, an international collaboration between European and North-American scholars, which is scheduled for publication in 2018.

As a student, Frederik held scholarships from various Danish trusts at the Centre for Medieval Studies in York and Copenhagen University. He graduated from Copnhagen with a PhD-level Magisterkonferens in 1984, received funding for an additional PhD from the Government of Canada in 1985 which was supplemented by grants from Carlsbergfondet. He studied with Michael Sheehan, Brian Stock and Ambrose Raftis at the Toronto Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies and received a second PhD in 1992 before going on to be the Carlsberg-Clare Hall Visiting Fellow, a Carlsberg Visiting Fellow at the Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure, and a Visiting Professor at Forschungszentrum Europäische Aufklärung in Potsdam.

Since 2008, Frederik has been a Director of the Iuris Canonici Medii Aevi Consociatio (The International Medieval Canon Law Society) and he was a member of the Carnegie-Mellon funded advisory user-group for the Borthwick Institute for Archives. He was the founding president of ‘Church, Law and Society in the Middle Ages’ (CLASMA), an AHRC-funded network dedicated to the training of a new generation of scholars of mediaeval canon law. He is a member of the editorial board of Studia Gratiana, an academic journal for the study of mediaeval canon law which is published by the Vatican, and reviews books for academic journals in the UK and abroad.

In addition to his work with ecclesiastical court-records he took the initiative, and co-wrote the application, for the induction of the Aberdeen Burgh Records to the UNESCO UK Memory of the World. He also co-authored and edited the best-selling Viking Empires (CUP 2005).

He is currently editing the fourteenth-century marriage cases held in the Borthwick Institute for Archives in York for the British Academy series Records of Social and Economic History. This edition (and it is hoped, an accompanying monograph) will provide a more detailed picture of the way in which the legal system interacted with the cultural expectation of marriage and provide an informed discussion concerning the veracity and the limitations of the narratives presented by litigants and their proctors in court. This discussion will include not only the legal context but also the social and cultural assumptions of the litigants and the legal profession. The edition will make complete transcripts of all surviving marriage cause papers from fourteenth-century York available to a wider, mainly academic, audience for the first time and will enable a better informed discussion of their content in future and will enable a trans-national approach to the study of the interaction of the public with legal institutions by allowing and encouraging scholars to compare the York Cause Papers with other legal sources and to make comparative studies of different courts and different time-periods.

The edition and monograph also has a direct bearing on contemporary concerns, as expressed, for example in the recent papal encyclical Amoris Laetitia on the place of the family in modern life.

Frederik is a peer reviewer for The Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK), The Carniegie Trust For The Universities in Scotland, The European Research CouncilThe Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (Canada) and the Icelandic Research Fund.

External Memberships

  • President of The Eurpean Academy of Religion (EuARe)
  • Editor of The Medieval Age, 500-1450 Volume 2 (of 6) of Joanne Ferraro (gen. ed.) The Cultural History of Marriage (Bloomsbury, 2018).
  • Member of the Carnegie Trust Peer Review College
  • Member of the AHRC Peer Review College
  • President of CLASMA (Church, Law and Society in the Middle Ages)
  • Member of the Board of Directors of The International Medieval Canon Law Society (ICMAC)

Research Overview

  • The Reception of Medieval Marriage Law
  • Medieval Courts and Medieval Law.
  • Medieval Demography
  • Cultural History of Marriage
  • Gender History
  • Scandinavian History (particularly Post-Viking)
  • The North Atlantic as a Cultural Space

Current Research

I am currently editing the fourteenth century marriage litigation preserved in the Borthwick Institute for the British Academy.

The mediaeval Cause Papers are a unique collection of legal documents of outstanding importance for legal and social historians of the middle ages.  The litigants who appeared in them were drawn from all walks of life, from travelling traders, city apprentices and seamstresses to members of the baronial class. The marriage cases are particularly interesting because the Church courts allowed women to be plaintiffs and therefore they promise an extremely rare glimpse into the lives of medieval women.

Although it is tempting to believe that these documents contain the authentic voices of mediaeval people, an investigation of the full transcripts reveal that for procedural reasons the cases, the stories told and the manner of their telling was influenced by learned law from the outset. The first step of litigation was the plaintiff’s oral presentation of a libel to the court which was subsequently redacted into a written libel with the help of a court-appointed proctor who was trained in law. Subsequent responses were made under oath, which meant that the defendant always had to keep in mind that if proven wrong, s/he might be sentenced for perjury. The documentation is also limited to what was admissible and interesting to the court and therefore omits many details and cannot be said to be an true record of ordinary life. However, until now the marriage cases have been excerpted and no complete records have been published. For the procedural reasons given above it is particularly important to provide full transcripts of the cases in order to allow scholars to establish the legal strategies open to the litigants at any given point of the litigation process.

The edited volume will include complete transcriptions of the Latin texts of all surviving fourteenth-century marriage cases. The transcripts are estimated to be about 250,000 words in length, the edition will be prefaced with a 50,000 word introduction outlining the history of the court, the legal procedure followed and a brief history of the archive. Indexes will include an Index of some 800 persons, an Index of Places and an Index of Case-types. It is expected that the indexes will take up approximately 30 printed pages.



The European Academy of Religion (Bologna-based world-wide research network)

Church, Law, and Society in the Middle Ages (with Barbara Bombi, Martin Brett, Peter Clarke, Kathleen Cushing, Anne Duggan, and Magnus Ryan).

CliohRes.net (With more than 150 collaborators across the EU)

Nordic Medieval Law




Teaching Responsibilities

Frederik has a strong involvment in the teaching of the history of sexuality and gender relations, and teaches  senior honours courses on canon law and on marriage in the Middle Ages

In 2001, he put together the department's popular course on vikings (originally called 'Vikings, Gaels and Normans', but now simply 'Vikings!'), which became the Cambridge University Press best-selling Viking Empires and formed the basis for David Aaronovitz's Radio 4 series The Viking Way.

His main teaching interest is the history of marriage and the family, women, the history of the construction of gender and on gender relations from Antiquity to the present. His third-year courses have concentrated on the social, legal and cultural history of marriage and family in the middle ages and on Viking-age Scandinavia

He also taught Latin to History post-graduates for the past 18 years and designed the LT1007, LT1507, LT2007 and LT2507 courses.

He is keen to integrate literary texts such as the Canterbury Tales, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Mystery plays, and Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde with the analysis of more traditional historical sources. 


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