Top login menu

Murray Edwards College
University of Cambridge

Q&A: Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic

Main page content

Dr Debby Banham 

My name’s Debby Banham. I’m the Director of Studies in Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic (ASNaC) at Murray Edwards. I did my BA and PhD in ASNaC (quite a long time ago), and for 25 years I taught at Birkbeck College in London. As well as being Director of Studies here and a Tutor at Newnham College, I teach on two papers in Part I of the ASNaC course, England before the Norman Conquest and Palaeography and Codicology (or manuscript studies).

My research is on medicine, diet and food production in early medieval England, with a sideline in monastic sign language (which I will demonstrate, given half a chance). Gender plays an increasing part in my approach to all these subjects.

What's special about ASNC at Cambridge? 

ASNaC is the only department in any university (in the world, not just the UK) where students can study our particular combination of subjects. We range across Britain and Ireland, Scandinavia and Iceland, and even Brittany, investigating the history, languages and literature of all these cultures, and we are very unusual in offering undergraduates the chance to study medieval manuscripts and handwriting. So Cambridge is not only the best, but the only place you can study ASNaC.

How does Murray Edwards College support its ASNC students? 

Murray Edwards is a hugely supportive College for all its students, and I try to make that especially true for the ASNaCs. We are such a small department that most students are the only ASNaC in their year at their College, or perhaps even the only ASNaC in the whole College. That means that people soon make friends in other subjects in their College, especially in such a friendly one as Murray Edwards. It also means that a lot of ASNaC social life revolves around the department, with pub nights, picnics, punting, and an annual Yule Play (really a sketch show, full of departmental in-jokes, videos available online).

What do you enjoy most about working at Murray Edwards College? 

The very best thing about Murray Edwards is its wholehearted commitment to promoting women's education, and seeking out innovative ways of doing that. It also has a very diverse student body, and the staff too come from lots of different backgrounds, so that makes it a very stimulating environment. And it's very friendly, which is really important.