I am a historian who researches the transformation of the late Roman Empire into its early medieval successors: the barbarian kingdoms of the Latin West, the Byzantine Empire, and the Islamic Caliphate.
In the vastness of the Roman world, those who lived in places as distant and diverse as York, Seville, Alexandria, and Damascus belonged to the same Empire. A network of urban centres, joined together by roads and waterways, operated as the nerve centre of an interconnected society that encircled the Mediterranean Sea. When faced with shared challenges, the microsocieties that comprised the Roman world both collaborated and competed with one another. Their resilience was tested by a series of crises that threw the greater Mediterranean world into headlong change. These centrifugal forces eventually spun out new societies and thereby created the Early Middle Ages. Barbarian kingdoms replaced Roman provinces in the West, while the remainder of the Empire continued, in its Byzantine form, in the East. The Christian Church emerged as the defining institution of this world, until – in the Levant, North Africa, and Iberia – an Islamic society appeared following the advent of a Caliphate that stretched eastwards beyond the Persian world and into the Punjab. Meanwhile, Jewish communities developed a unique network that crossed the whole region. How did such changes occur, and what did they mean to people at the time?
My research began with the study of the barbarian kingdoms of the post-Roman West. My Master of Research degree (University of Leeds, 2006-2007) explored Roman influence in Anglo-Saxon Britain, and led to published work on the development of an 'English' ethnic identity (the gens Anglorum) in the early medieval period. My PhD (University of Leeds, 2007-2011) explored post-Roman Gaul, and in particular the role of women in the life and works of Gregory of Tours, a key historical source, leading to the publication of my first monograph, Queens, Consorts, Concubines: Gregory of Tours and Women of the Merovingian Elite (Brill, 2015). My continued research has now resulted in a second study, a biographical treatment of Radegund, Queen and Saint (c. 522–587), to be published in 2022 with Oxford University Press.
I have subsequently expanded my horizons to include the whole of the greater Mediterranean world, from the third to tenth centuries. This enlarged field of vision encompasses, in particular, the early history of Islam. My current work integrates early Islamic societies into the framework of Late Antiquity and understands the emergence of an Arab elite as an expression of forces of change particular to the late and post-Roman world. This research centres the theme of interconnectivity, engages in comparative analysis, and draws upon the insights of decolonial theory to offer new insights in the study of Late Antiquity.
I have recently been awarded an ERC-Consolidator Grant to serve as the Principal Investigator for a 5-year project, involving a team of scholars under my direction, to explore the subject of 'Domestic Slavery and Sexual Exploitation in the Households of Europe, North Africa, and the Near East, from Constantine to c. AD 900 / AH 287' (Grant agreement No. 101001429), hosted by the University of Leicester. More information on this research can be found under the 'Research' tab and on the project's website: DoSSEproject.com.
My research profile began with a study of the late and post-Roman world focused on the barbarian kingdoms of the Latin West. While continuing that expertise, I have subsequently expanded my research horizons to include the whole of the greater Mediterranean world. My work now aims to situate the emergence of an Arab elite, and the appearance of the Umayyad Caliphate, within the framework of Late Antiquity.
I am the Principal Investigator for a 60-month research project, funded through a €2m grant from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Grant agreement No. 101001429):
Domestic Slavery and Sexual Exploitation in the Households of Europe, North Africa, and the Near East, from Constantine to c. AD 900 / AH 287
The project (DoSSE) brings together a team of researchers to investigate the sexual exploitation of people enslaved within the households of the greater Mediterranean world. This research project will reconstruct the motivations and justifications behind the sexual exploitation of domestic slaves, identify how the lived experience in the household shaped the content of our sources, reveal how a common Roman inheritance impacted later practices, and map the similarities and differences in Muslim, Christian, and Jewish communities in the region. The result will significantly advance how scholars understands the transformation of the late Roman world.
For more information about the project, please visit DoSSEproject.com
Decoloniality & Late Antiquity
I have a keen interest decolonial approaches to history, and I am currently exploring how decolonial theory might be applied to the study of the late Roman Empire and the emergence of new societies in its aftermath. This includes:
- critically reflecting on the extent to which the deeper theoretical and categorical frameworks of academic research are bound to the historical experience of western Europe
- grounding research on the post-Roman world in the principles of interconnectivity and comparative analysis across the whole of the greater Mediterranean world
- advancing beyond both the 'decline and fall' and 'transformation' frameworks usually applied to the late and post-Roman World
- establishing research networks that prioritise the perspectives of researchers with links to Latin America, the Middle East, and the Indian Subcontinent
- developing new methodologies that do not a priori favour early written texts over orally preserved texts (lest historians grant documentary cultures hegemony within the study of the past)
• Radegund: Queen and Saint (c. 522–587) (Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2022)
• Queens, Consorts, Concubines: Gregory of Tours and Women of the Merovingian Elite (Brill, 2015)
• Portraits of Medieval Europe, 800–1400, ed. with Christian Raffensperger (Routledge, forthcoming 2023)
• Monastic Space through Time, ed. with Stephen Werronen, Bulletin of International Medieval Research, 19 (Institute for Medieval Studies, 2014)
• 'Gregory of Tours and Chlothild', in Transforming the Early Medieval World: Studies in Honour of Ian N. Wood, ed. by N. Kıvılcım Tavuz and Richard Broome (Kismet Press, forthcoming in 2022)
• 'The Horizons of Gregory of Tours', in Authorship, Worldview, and Identity in Medieval Europe, ed. by Christian Raffensperger (Routledge, 2022), pp. 17-37
• 'To Choose One Easter from Three: Oswiu's Decision and the Northumbrian Synod of 664', Peritia, 26 (2015), pp. 47-64
• 'Confinement and Exclusion in the Monasteries of Sixth-Century Gaul', Early Medieval Europe, 22 (2014), pp. 304-335
• 'Gregory of Tours, Fredegund, and the Paternity of Chlothar II: Strategies of Legitimation in the Merovingian Kingdoms', Journal of Late Antiquity, 7 (2014), pp. 3-27
• 'Introducing Monastic Space: The Early Years, 250-750', in Monastic Space through Time, ed. by E. T. Dailey and Stephen Werronen (Institute for Medieval Studies, 2014), pp. 5-25
• 'Misremembering St. Radegund's Foundation of Sainte-Croix in Poitiers', in Erfahren, Erzählen, Erinnern: Narrativ Konstruktionen von Gedächtnis und Generation in Antike und Mittelalter, ed. by Hartwin Brandt, Benjamin Pohl, W. Maurice Sprague, and Lina K. Hörl (Bamberg: University of Bamberg Press, 2012), pp. 117-140
• 'The Vita Gregorii and Ethnogenesis in Anglo-Saxon Britain', Northern History, 47 (2010), pp. 195-207
• 'Reappraising the Synod of Whitby', History Studies, 10 (2009), pp. 31–44
Please contact me if you would like to discuss potential doctoral research projects under my supervision. I am very happy to discuss such projects with prospective researchers.
For my current research project (DoSSE), I have recently advertised two fully-funded 3-year PhD positions. These are scheduled to begin in September 2022:
Applications are now being accepted, with a deadline of 17 June 2022. For more information, visit the links above or email me directly.
A recent interview, in which I discuss my work, can be found on the Iranian Medieval History website in English and Persian.