Dr James Palmer

Dr James Palmer

MPhil (Cantab.), PhD (Shef.), FRHistS - Reader

Contact Details

E-mail - jtp21@st-andrews.ac.uk
Telephone - +44 (0)1334 462197
Fax - +44 (0)1334 463334

Research Profile on Research@StAndrews



Teaching and Research Interests

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.

Main Publications


  • The Apocalypse in the Early Middle Ages (Cambridge, 2014) [Details]
  • Anglo-Saxons in a Frankish World 690-900 (Brepols, 2009) [Details]


  • “The Otherness of Non-Christians in the Early Middle Ages”, Studies in Church History, 51 (2015) [Details].
  • The Ends and Futures of Bede’s De temporum ratione”, in P. Darby & F. Wallis (eds.), Bede and the Future (Farnham, 2014). [Details]
  • 'Wilfrid and the Frisians', in R. Hall & N. Higham (eds.), St Wilfrid: Bishop of York, Abbot of Ripon and Hexham (Stamford, 2013).
  • 'The Ordering of Time', in V. Wieser, C. Zolles, C. Feik, M. Zolles & L. Schlöndorff (eds.), Abendländische Apokalyptik. Kompendium zur Genealogie der Endzeit (Berlin, 2013).
  • “Computus after the Paschal Controversy of AD740” in I. Warntjes & D. Ó Cróinín (eds.), The Easter Controversy of Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages: Its Manuscripts, Texts and Tables (Turnhout, 2011). [Details]
  • “Calculating Time and the End of Time in the Carolingian World c. 740- c. 820”, English Historical Review, 126/ 523 (2011).
  • “Beyond Frankish Authority? Frisia and Saxony between the Anglo-Saxons and Carolingians”, in H. Sauer & J. Story (eds.), Anglo-Saxon England and the Continent (Tempe, AZ, 2011).
  • "Anskar's Imagined Communities", in H. Antonsson & I. Garipzanov (eds.), Saints and their Lives on the Periphery: Veneration of Saints in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe (c.1000-c.1200) (Turnhout, 2010). [Details]
  • “Hagiography and Time in the Carolingian vitae of St Boniface”, in R. Corradini, M. Diesenberger & M. Niederkorn-Bruck (eds.), Zwischen Niederschrift und Wiederschrift (Vienna, 2010). [Details]
  • "Defining Paganism in the Carolingian World", Early Medieval Europe, 15.4 (2007).
  • "Saxon or European? Interpreting and Reinterpreting St Boniface", History Compass, 4.5 (2006).
  • "The Vigorous Rule of Bishop Lull: Between Bonifatian Mission and Carolingian Church Control", Early Medieval Europe, 13.3 (2005).
  • "The Frankish Cult of Martyrs and the Case of the Two Saints Boniface", Revue benedictine, 114 (2004).
  • "Rimbert's Vita Anskarii and Scandinavian Mission in the Ninth Century", Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 55.2 (2004).

Web Pages


Administrative Duties

Pro Dean (PGR)
Joint Director of St Andrews Institute of Mediaeval Studies with Bettina Bildhauer (School of Modern Languages)

Teaching Duties

Offers the following honours courses:

And the following Special Subjects:

Completed Research Students

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.


Main Publications

Anglo-Saxons ina Frankish World