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John McEwan, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor
Digital Humanities

Courses Taught

World Civilization to 1500; Origins of the Modern World, 1500 to Present; Introduction to Medieval History; Medieval Europe, Renaissance and Reformation; England and Europe 1300-1500; History of London; The Life and Times of Simon de Montfort; History in the Digital World


Ph.D., University of London (Royal Holloway), 2007;

M.A., University of London (Royal Holloway), 2000;

B.A., University of Western Ontario, Canada, 1999;

Research Interests

McEwan specializes in the history of information technology, particularly in urban contexts, and its transformative effects on societies. His research focuses on record keeping, literacy, and local government in urban communities during the Later Middle Ages. He is fascinated by how groups of people form, articulate and express collective identities, what types of social activities those solidarities foster, and how those activities are mediated by and shape information systems. The key to understanding medieval urban society, he argues, is to study the interaction of people and their systems for organizing information. He contends that cities are important not only because they foster new record-keeping practices, but also because those practices enable novel forms of social organization and new political and cultural practices that can shape the development of societies.

As a corollary to this work, he also investigates how the application of electronic data management tools and imaging technology enables us to pose new research questions and extend scholarship in previously impractical directions. His current research explores the intersection of reflectance transformation imaging, optical character recognition, and databases, and shows that the combination of these technologies provides researchers with novel tools to investigate the significance of medieval records.

Publications and Media Placements


Seals in Medieval London, 1050-1300: A Catalogue (London Record Society, 2016).

Edited Volumes

Seals in Context: Medieval Wales and the Marches, eds. J McEwan and E.A. New (Aberystwyth, 2012).


‘New approaches to old questions: digital technology, sigillography and DIGISIG’, in Medieval Studies, Digital Methods, vol. 1 (2022).

‘Charity and London Bridge in the thirteenth century’, in Medieval Londoners: Essays to Mark the 80th Birthday of Caroline M. Barron, ed. E. New and C. Steer (Institute of Historical Research, 2019), 223–244.

‘Tout and seals’, in Thomas Frederick Tout: Refashioning History in the 20th Century, ed. J. Rosenthal and C. Barron (Institute of Historical Research, 2019), 185–198.

‘Does size matter? Seals in England and Wales, ca.1200-1500’, in Companion to Seals in the Middle Ages, ed. L. Whatley (Brill, 2019), 103–126.

‘Reflectance transformation imaging and the future of medieval sigillography’, History Compass, iss. e12477 (2018).

‘London’s militia in the thirteenth century’, Medieval Prosopography, vol. 33 (2018), pp.89-102.

‘The past, present and future of sigillography: towards a new structural standard for seal catalogues’, Archives and Records, vol. 41 (2017), pp.1-20.

‘The challenge of the visual: making medieval seals accessible in the digital age’, Journal of Documentation, vol. 71, iss. 5 (2015), 999-1028.

‘The aldermen of London, c.1200-80: Alfred Beaven revisited’, Transactions of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society 62 (2011), 177-204.

‘Horses, horsemen and hunting: leading Londoners and equestrian seals in the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries’, Essays in Medieval Studies 20 (2006), 77-93.

‘William FitzOsbert and the crisis of 1196 in London’, Florilegium 21 (2004), 18-42.

Book Chapters

‘Charity and London Bridge in the thirteenth century’, in Medieval Londoners: Essays to Mark the 80th Birthday of Caroline M. Barron, ed. E. New and C. Steer (Institute of Historical Research, 2019).

‘Does size matter? Seals in England and Wales, ca.1200-1500’, in Companion to Seals in the Middle Ages, ed. L. Whatley (Brill, 2019), 103–126.

‘Les Londoniens comme fournisseurs à la cour royale au XIIIe siècle’, in Paris ville de cour, eds. Boris Bove, Muriel Gaude-Ferragu et Cédric Michon (Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2017), pp.185-194.

‘Local government in troubled times: London 1263-68’, in Baronial Reform and Revolution in England, 1258-1267, ed. A. Jobson (The Boydell Press, 2016), 125-138.

'Seals in Medieval Wales and its neighbouring counties: trends in motifs', in Seals and Society: Medieval Wales, the Welsh Marches and their English Border Region, ed. Elizabeth A. New and Phillipp R. Schofield with S. Johns and J. A. McEwan (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2016), 13-34.

‘Making a mark in medieval London: the social and economic status of seal-makers, c.1200-1350’, in Seals and their Context in the Middle Ages, ed. P. Schofield (Oxbow Press, 2015), 77-88.

‘Formation of a sealing society: London in the Twelfth Century’ in Medieval Coins and Seals: Constructing Identity, Signifying Power, ed. S. Solway (Brepols, 2015), 319-330.

‘Occupational identity in medieval London: the sigillographic evidence’, in The Medieval Merchant, ed. C.M. Barron and A. Sutton (Shaun Tyas, 2014), 350-63.

‘The seals of London’s governing elite in the thirteenth century’, in Thirteenth Century England XIV, eds. J. Burton, P. Schofield, K. Stober and B. Weiler (Boydell and Brewer, 2013), 43-60.

‘The politics of financial accountability: auditing the chamberlain in London c.1298-1349’, in Hiérarchie des Pouvoirs, Délégation de Pouvoir et Responsabilité des Administrateurs dans L’Antiquité et au Moyen Âge, eds. Agnès Bérenger and Frédérique Lachaud (Centre de Recherche Universitaire Lorrain d’Histoire, 2012), 253-270.

‘The development of an identity in thirteenth century London: the personal seals of Simon FitzMary’, in Marc Gil et Jean-Luc Chassel (eds), Pourquoi les Sceaux ? La Sigillographie, Nouvel Enjeu de l'Histoire de l'Art (Lille, 2011), 255-74.

Digital Projects

Digital Sigillography Resource [Website] (St. Louis, Saint Louis Center for Digital Humanities, 2015), accessible at:

Seals in Medieval Wales and the Welsh Marches, c.1200-1500 [Dataset], designed and programmed by J. McEwan (Aberystwyth, Arts and Humanities Research Council (AH/G010994/1): principal investigator, Phillipp Schofield, 2012), accessible at: Aberystwyth University.

Honors and Awards

Mellon Faculty Development Award, Saint Louis University (2022)

Stolle Fund Award, Saint Louis University (2022)

Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies Library Fellowship, Durham University, UK (2016)

CENDARI (Collaborative European Digital Archive Infrastructure) transnational fellowship, Göttingen Centre for Digital Humanities, Germany (2015)

John Brockway Huntington Foundation Fellowship, Huntington Library, California (2015)

British Academy, Neil Ker Memorial Fund (P.I); ‘Designing Records: Twelfth-Century Scribes and the Production of Charters in the British Isles’ (2012-13)

Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada Doctoral Fellowship (2000-04)

British Council Overseas Research Studentship (2000-03)

University of London, Royal Holloway College Research Award (2000-03)

London Goodenough Association of Canada Scholarship for Study in London (1999)