James Robert Burns

PhD Student (History)

Mr James Robert Burns

School/Department: History, Politics and International Relations, School of




DoSSE website

DoSSE social media


I study the Early Middle Ages. My doctoral research is on slavery and the households of sixth-century Gaul, as part of the ERC-funded project on 'Domestic Slavery and Sexual Exploitation in the Households of Europe, North Africa, and the Near East, from Constantine to c. AD 900 / AH 287' (

I did my BA in History at the University of Oxford and my MA in Medieval Studies at the University of York. I joined Leicester in January 2023.


My doctoral project is 'Slavery and the Households of Sixth-Century Gaul'. For this, I am investigating the lives and visibility of slaves represented in the works of Gregory of Tours; the sexual use and abuse of the enslaved; the relationship of slavery with hospitality and literacy; and other related issues.

I am a team member of the DoSSE project, which brings together scholars of the Frankish, Byzantine, Islamic, Syriac, and Jewish worlds to compare how different late antique communities maintained the Roman legacy of domestic slavery and reshaped attitudes towards the sexual exploitation of slaves. My colleagues and I have blogged about our research on the DoSSE website. Our work is funded by the European Research Council (grant agreement no. 101001429).

I have published on the theory and historiography of slavery. My publications have also discussed sources from early medieval Britain and Ireland as well as Merovingian and Carolingian Francia. Beyond the focus of my PhD research, I have particular interests in early medieval mobility, banditry, and depictions of strange phenomena.


‘The Bandit, the Holy Man, and the Slave in the Early Medieval West’, Journal of Late Antiquity (forthcoming 2024) [accepted].

‘“Slaves” and “Slave Owners” or “Enslaved People” and “Enslavers”?’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society (FirstView 2023), pp. 1–18, doi:10.1017/S008044012300028 [link].

‘Dragons, Wolves and Spectral Armies: Signs of Wartime in Early Medieval Annals’, Quaestio Insularis: Selected Proceedings of the Cambridge Colloquium in Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, 23 (2023), pp. 1–23 [link].


My first supervisor is Erin Thomas Dailey and my second supervisor is Joanna Story.


Doctoral studentship, ERC-funded, at the University of Leicester (2023).

The Garmonsway Prize for the best average coursework mark among the Medieval Studies MA cohort at the University of York (2021).

Scholarship (£5,000 tuition fee waver) for the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of York (2021).

The Sears Prize for the best undergraduate History dissertation by a student at Lincoln College, Oxford (2020).


In 2024, I will be presenting papers about my doctoral research at the International Medieval Congress in Leeds and the International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo. 
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