I am a historian of early medieval Europe. I obtained my PhD - on Carolingian saints’ Lives and the memorialisation of English missionaries - from the University of Sheffield in 2004. I then held a lectureship at the University of Leicester, followed by a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship at the University of Nottingham, before taking up a lectureship in medieval history at the University of St Andrews in 2007.
Most of my research has focused on the international dimensions of cultural exchange and the related politics of historical writing. In my early research, I analysed the role of English missionaries in Germany and Frisia, contrasting their achievements and professed ideals with later, often tendentious representations of them. I have also studied conversion and politics in mission involving Vikings and Scandinavia. The project opened up questions about the ways in which pasts were reinterpreted in relation to changing identities, politics and ideals. My book, Anglo-Saxons in a Frankish World 690-900, was published in 2009.
With my second book, I explored the power of apocalyptic traditions in Europe’s past. Here, it was fascinating to see how a ‘transcultural’ core of ideas grew and diversified over time – sometimes in response to events (e.g. the Sack of Rome in 410), sometimes shaping those events (e.g. the promotion of orthodoxy in the Carolingian Empire). By considering issues raised in anthropology and religious studies, my work also contributed to wider debates about how societies deal with major crises, and what role ‘apocalyptic rhetoric’ can play in stoking or calming fears about the future. In 2011 I won an AHRC Fellowship to carry out the project; the resulting book, The Apocalypse in the Early Middle Ages, was published in 2014.
My recent research has focused on intellectual networks and early medieval science, as well as Western attitudes towards Jews, Muslims and pagans before the First Crusade.
My research and teaching are closely linked. At honours I offer the modules ‘Power and Identity after Rome 500-700’ and ‘Medieval Apocalyptic Traditions 400-1200’, together with a Special Subject on ‘The Age of Charlemagne’. I also contribute to the team-taught subhonours module ‘The Fall of Rome and the Origins of Europe (400-1000)’ and ‘History as a Discipline’.
To find out more about James' research click here.
Offers the following honours courses:
And the following Special Subjects:
Joanna Thornborough, Saints' Cults and Hagiography in Early Medieval Wurzburg and St Gall.
I am happy to supervise students undertaking research in any area of continental or English history from the sixth to the eleventh centuries.