We catch up with Hannele Klemettilä-McHale, a Life Member of Clare Hall who now works as General Editor of the Routledge Medieval Encyclopaedia
I am currently based in Sonning-on-Thames, UK, having lived in Dubai and New York for the past seven years.
I was a Visiting Fellow at Clare Hall in 2009–10, studying medieval hunting — a subject that was crucial to my postdoctoral project. During my time at the College I valued the many interesting people I met, and the formal dinners were memorable.
After I got my PhD in Medieval History from the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, I was elected a Postdoctoral Researcher of the Academy of Finland.
I earned the title of Docent (or Adjunct Professor) of Cultural History at the University of Turku, Finland, and became an instructor at the Finnish Virtual University of Humanities, where I have been teaching courses on medieval symbolism, history of animals and food history since 2009.
In 2017, I joined the Routledge Medieval Encyclopaedia project as a Subject Editor for the section of Cultures including Sciences (1100–1550), and was appointed the General Editor in 2021.
The fascinating aspects of this project are the magnitude and the aim: we wish to create a sophisticated new tool for the coming generations of historians. Hundreds of scholars from around the world are involved.
During my time at the College I valued the many interesting people I met, and the formal dinners were memorable.
I was inspired by Johan Huizinga’s book, The Waning of the Middle Ages.
I thought it wonderful and wanted to learn more about the fierce and clamorous time when life could endure the mingled odour of blood and roses, as Huizinga himself put it. At the beginning of my career I specialised in medieval death cultures and the ways professional executioners were viewed. The major themes I work with currently are related to the topics I teach: symbols, animals and food. Besides these, I am interested in Gaston Fébus (1331–1391). The French chronicler Jean Froissart praised Fébus as the model prince of his era, and it would be difficult to disagree, even if Fébus had his faults and dark secrets, too.
I recently published a book about medieval cookery.
It is a version of a book that was first published in Finland in 2007. The book was received enthusiastically and was soon translated and published in Estonia. Reaktion published an altered version in English in 2012. Then came the German translation, and finally, last autumn, the Chinese translation by the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (pictured above). The book explores the social history of food and cookery in medieval Europe. There is a recipe section based on original sources and the illustrations are drawn from medieval paintings, miniatures and engravings.
Soon, I hope to publish a novel trilogy that I have been writing for some years.
I call it the Huntmaster Chronicles. It is a historical crime novel about the plots and intrigues at the court of Gaston Fébus in the late 1380s.
I love languages.
Every morning right after breakfast, I study some more. Currently, it is number 11: Portuguese.