I am an historian of religion, power and intellectual life in medieval Europe. I have been involved in developing the field of global medieval history, and new approaches to historical study that speak to the concerns of the mounting climate and environmental crisis.
My first monograph, Roger Bacon and the Defence of Christendom, was a revisionist study of the English Franciscan, Roger Bacon, his reform programme and his environment. A recent Past & Present article, 'Globalising Cosmologies', written with the Aztec specialist, Caroline Dodds Pennock, explores what it might mean for societies to conceive of themselves 'globally' in the medieval period, and what impact such a view of medieval thought might have on our current understanding of 'globalisation' as a specific historical process or a quality of modernity. Building on the work of the AHRC-funded network, Defining the Global Middle Ages, I am involved in collaborative discussions around the idea of ‘medieval Zomias’ – how one might think about ‘stateless’ spaces in the global middle ages.
I am currently working on a monograph, Medieval Histories of the Anthropocene, which explores questions concerning the relations between religion, power and the construction of public rationality in the building of medieval states across Eurasia. I am interested in how these centralising processes consciously dislocated humans from local ecosystems and specific and sustainable practices, while creating powerful and enduring narratives about civilisation, barbarism, and the use of resources.
A related, partly collaborative, series of projects ask about the future of our discipline, and of Humanities and Social Sciences more generally, in the politically, economically and ecologically unstable period that we are now entering. These include co-convening the Oxford-based Climate Crisis Thinking in the Humanities and Social Sciences network, and the Anthropocene Histories seminar series at the Institute of Historical Research, and co-ordinating the 'Climates' special thematic strand for the 2021 International Medieval Congress at the University of Leeds. I am also the series editor for the Premodern Ecosystems: Climate, Environment, People series for ARC Humanities Press.
I have written and spoken widely on the contributions that historical perspectives can make to addressing climate change through better understanding of its "anthropogenic" causes, including: The Conversation; Times Higher Education; on Climate in the history curriculum for the Royal Historical Society blog. I have engaged with the scientific community through presentations at academic conferences; as a contributor to Mock COP26 and at the Climate Expo, which will showcase the latest thinking and most relevant international climate research in the run-up to COP26.
I have also appeared on Radio 4's In Our Time and contributed to Lapham's Quarterly.
See page on St Catherine's College website