Photo of Polina Ignatova

Polina Ignatova


My research focusses on the circulation of knowledge about fish in the Middle Ages and how past mentalities affect modern environmental policies. Other interests include horror studies and Islamic art.

Research Areas


My current project titled 'Medieval Knowledge Exchange: Strategies for Acquiring, Recording, and Disseminating Information about Fish between 1100 and 1400' investigates the circulation of knowledge about fish in the Middle Ages - the formative period of the modern science. By looking at various sources, such as bestiaries, fables, lives of saints, epic and romantic literature, and works of art, including manuscript illuminations, mosaics, and world maps, this project offers an expansive and interdisciplinary study of the interactions between various medieval forms of knowledge about aquatic organisms. It also investigates the norms of knowledge about water-borne animals, namely the ways in which information about fish circulated in the medieval society, which representations of fish became dominant, which were marginalised, and why.

Walking dead

Although the cultures of different groups in the medieval society have been studied, the ways these groups interacted with each other and exchanged information remains to a large extent neglected. While it has been traditionally assumed that everything gross and ‘inappropriate’ was inevitably a product of the unlearned minds or a remnant of pagan beliefs, my research on the role of walking-dead stories in medieval narratives has established that in the Middle Ages the legacy of classical sources remained extremely important and vibrant, and a number of ideas which had previously been labelled as pagan Germanic were, in fact, borrowed from classical texts. These findings have also demonstrated that, in contrast to previous assumptions that irrational beliefs were spread within a society from the unlearned elements to the rest of the society, in fact, the flow of ideas often seems to have gone in the opposite direction, with some superstitions reflecting the downward dissemination of knowledge from the learned circles to ordinary people.

History of Islam

Following my previous appointment as a lecturer in medieval Islamic history, I have developed interest in this topic and have published popular scientific articles about various aspects of Islamic art and architecture. I am particularly interested in tracing change and continuity over the centuries and analysing the ways in which Islamic art reflects various important aspects of our lives, from relationships between confessions to LGBTQI+ rights.

Professional Activity


I have extensive experience in teaching undergraduate and postgraduate students, including PhD candidates. I have delivered lectures and conducted seminars on a diverse range of subjects, including the methodology of researching knowledge circulation, continuity and periodisation in history, history from ancient to modern, Islam in the Middle Ages, twentieth-century Britain, strategies for research and academic writing, English as a foreign language, and Latin for medical terminology.

Research events

In the past few years I have organised several research events aimed at sharing knowledge and bringing together scholars which share similar interests:

Environmental History of the Middle Ages, conference sessions at the International Medieval Congress at the University of Leeds, 6 July 2021.

Rivers, Lakes, Seas, and Their Inhabitants in the Middle Ages, conference sessions at the International Medieval Congress at the University of Leeds, 4 July 2022.

Ghosts, Dangerous Bodies, and the Walking Dead in the Medieval World, conference session at the International Medieval Congress at the University of Leeds, 2 July 2019, which was among the ten sessions recommended by

M6 Medieval Reading Group Symposium ‘Communities’, conference at the University of Liverpool, 28 June 2019.


I am director of ePublishing at Progressive Connexions and a guest editor for Shima's special thematic issue 'Aquatic Mythologies and Monstrosities'. I am also collaborating with various organisations across creating impact and making academic research available for non-academic audiences via various media. In 2020 I spoke about medieval and modern representations of walking dead on History Hack Podcast, Episode 315. In early 2022 I was a historical consultant for an environmental exhibition 'Therianthropes' held between April and May 2022 in Nicosia, Cyprus. I am also an Early Career Member of the Royal Historical Society in the UK.



Academic Background

PhD: The Idea of the Walking Dead in Medieval Historical Texts with Particular Reference to the English Examples, 2015–19, Department of History, Lancaster University.

MA Medieval History, 2013–14 (King’s College London).

BA Diplomacy and Regional Studies, 2009–13 (Moscow State Institute of International Relations).