Laura Marie Feigen

PhD Student

Thesis:  Migrations from the Margin: Hebrew Manuscripts & Jewish Expulsion 1290-1500

Supervisor: Professor Alixe Bovey, FSA FRHistS  Advisor: Dr Tom Nickson 

Funded by Consortium for the Humanities and Arts South-East England (CHASE) with additional support from the Garfield Weston Foundation

This PhD thesis explores the rise in Hebrew manuscripts with marginalia (images in the margins) concurrent with the expulsion of Jews from France, Germany and Spain between 1290 and 1500, in order to understand the impact of displacement on Jewish mentalités. The project focuses on ten Hebrew manuscripts that migrated from their origins to new cities like Bologna and Lisbon before 1500. It uses the marginalia in each manuscript as a lens to examine crucial yet unanswered questions about how the manuscripts changed over time to reflect the influence of expulsion on Jewish thought, identity and ritual. In doing so, the study fills a gap in scholarship on Jewish persecution and marginalia studies which have hitherto privileged a Christian perspective. By juxtaposing the marginalia’s interpretation in their original contexts with that in the new cities, this project presents a fresh method for studying Hebrew marginalia while also giving voice to a minority often overshadowed in medieval history.


2019: The Courtauld Institute of Art, MA History of Art (Distinction)

2018: Stanford University, BAH History of Art (First Class Honours)

2018: Stanford University, BA Italian Language and Literature (First Class Honours)

Research Interests

  • Hebrew manuscripts from England, France, Germany, Spain, and Italy
  • Jewish-Christian relationships and Jewish experience in the Middle Ages
  • Jewish displacement and expulsion in western Europe 1290-1492
  • Marginal images (marginalia) in Hebrew and Latin manuscripts
  • Processes of Hebrew and Latin manuscript production and illumination in western Europe (13th – 15th centuries)
  • Jewish persecution and anti-Jewish sentiment across historical periods
  • Movement of people and books across time periods and geographies