Dr Alex Woolf

Dr Alex Woolf


BA, MPhil (Sheffield), PhD (St Andrews),
FSA (Scot.) - Senior Lecturer

Contact Details

E-mail - aw40@st-and.ac.uk
Room 15, 71 South Street
Telephone - +44 (0)1334 462880
Fax - +44 (0)1334 463334

Research Profile on Research@StAndrews


Educational and Professional History

After an abortive year of Scandinavian Studies at UCL in 1982-3, I returned to University to take a Joint Honours Degree in Medieval English and Medieval History at Sheffield in 1989. This was followed by an M.Phil. by Research in the Archaeology of Ireland in the fifth and sixth centuries AD. Remaining in Sheffield I embarked upon doctoral study looking at Ethnic Replacement in Sub-Roman Britain, before being appointed to a Lectureship in Archaeology at the University of Wales, Lampeter, in 1995. Two years later I took up a lectureship in Celtic and Early Scottish history and Culture at the University of Edinburgh, where I remained until 2001. Since 2001 I have been first a lecturer and later senior lecturer in History at St Andrews.


Teaching and Research Interests

My research falls into two main areas. Firstly there is ‘teaching-led’ research relating to early Scottish History which has resulted in my textbook From Pictland to Alba and numerous articles. Beyond this the focus of much of my work could be said to be the development of centralised kingdoms from Iron Age societies and the relationship between language shift and socio-economic history. This thematic focus explains the broad geographical and chronological spread of my work. Within this broad range my central area of interest lies in the period c.450-1050 with something of a bias towards the earlier part of the period. My teaching, in which I attempt to maintain a balance between my commitment to the Scottish History programme and the wider cultural context which is necessary for understanding it, attempts to reflect this range.

Main Publications


  • Beyond the Gododdin, Dark Age Scotland in Medieval Wales. (ed.) St Andrews Committee for Dark Age Studies, St John's House Papers No.13 2013 [Details]
  • Scandinavian Scotland, 20 Years After. (ed.) St Andrews Dark Age Studies Committee, St John House Papers No. 12, 2009 [Details]
  • From Pictland to Alba: Scotland, 789 to 1070, (Edinburgh University Press, 2007) [Details]
  • Landscape and Environment in Dark Age Scotland (ed.) St Andrews Committee for Dark Age Studies; 2006 [Details]


  • Fire from heaven: Divine Providence and Iron Age Hillforts in Early Medieval Britain' in P. Rainbird (ed.), Monuments in the Landscape; Tempus, 2008; 136-143 [Details]
  • "'Apartheid and Economics in Anglo-Saxon England'"; The Britons in Anglo-Saxon England; N. J. Higham (ed); Boydell & Brewer 2007; 115-129
  • "A dead man at Ballyshannon"; The World of the Galloglass: Kings, warlords and warriors in Ireland and Scotland, 1200-1600; S Duffy (ed); Four Courts Press 2007; 77-85
  • "The Cult of Moluag, The see of Mortlach and Church Organisation in Northern Scotland in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries"; Fil suil nglais - A Grey Eye Looks Back: A Festschrift for Colm O' Baoill; S. Arbuthnot, K. Hollo (ed); Clann Tuirc 2007; 311-322
  • "The World Beyond the Wood: Jamtland and the Norwegian Kings"; West Overseas: a Festschrift for Barbara Crawford; B. Ballin Smith, S. Taylor, G. Williams (ed); Brill Academic Publishers 2007; 153-166
  • "The expulsion of the Irish from Dyfed"; Ireland and Wales in the Middle Ages; Karen Jankulak, Jonathan Wooding (ed); Four Courts Press 2007; 102-115
  • "AU 729.2 and the last years of Nechtan mac Der-Ile"; Scottish Historical Review 2006; 85(1):131-34
  • Dun Nechtain, Fortriu and the Geography of the Picts"; Scottish Historical Review 2006 ; 85(2):182-201
  • "'The origins and ancestry of Somerled: Gofraid mac Fergusa and the Annals of the Four Masters'"; Mediaeval Scandinavia 2005 ; 15:199-213
  • "Unust son of Urguist: tyrannus carnifex or a David for the Picts?"; Aethelbald and Offa: two eighth-century kings of Mercia; David Hill, Margaret Worthington (ed) 2005
  • ‘Caedualla Rex Brettonum and the passing of the Old North’, Northern History 41.1, 1-20 (2004)
  • ‘The Age of Sea-Kings: 900-1300’, in D. Omand, (ed.), The Argyll Book, 94-109. (Edinburgh 2004)
  • The Britons: from Romans to Barbarians"; Regna and Gentes: The Relationship Between Late Antique and Early Medieval peoples and Kingdoms in the Transformation of the Roman World; H-W Goetz, J Jarnut, W Pohl (ed); EJ Brill Publishers, Leiden 2003; [Details]
  • "The Diocese of Sudreyar"; Ecclesia Nidrosiensis 1153-1537: Søkelys på Nidaroskirkens og Nidarosprovinsens historie, Tapir, Trondheim; S Imsen (ed) 2003
  • "Amlaíb Cuarán and the Gael, 941-981"; Medieval Dublin III; S Duffy (ed); The Four Courts Press, Dublin, Eire 2002; 34-44
  • "An interpolation in the text of Gildas's De Excidio Britanniae"; Peritia 2002; 16:161-167
  • "Birth of a Nation"; In Search of Scotland, (Polygon, Edinburgh); G Menzies (ed) 2001
  • "The Kings of the English from Earliest Times to 1066"; The Kings and Queens of England, (Tempus); M Ormrod (ed) 2001
  • "The Verturian Hegemony: A Mirror in the North"; Mercia: an Anglo-Saxon Kingdom in Europe, (Leicester University Press); MP Brown, CA Farr (ed) 2001
  • "View from the West: An Irish Perspective on West Saxon Dynastic Practice"; Edward the Elder, (Routledge); N Higham, D Hill (ed) 2001; 899-924


Administrative Duties

Director of Library and Information

Research Students

I am happy to supervise students undertaking research in the following areas:
The Late Antique West
Early Insular History
Germanic Antiquity
Scandinavian History and Historiography up to about 1270
Scottish History up to about 1200
Anglo-Saxon history

Current Research Students:

  • Chris Eddington, Genealogy, Divine Sovereignty and universal Christian history in Anglo-Saxon Literature (with Dr Chris Jones, School of English)
  • Bryn Jones, Wales and Rome before the Edwardian Conquest

Completed PhD students:

  • Marta Miller, Negotiating the past in medieval Iceland, c. 1250-1500: Cultural memory and royal authority in the Icelandic legal tradition
  • Vittorio Mattioli, Performing Grímnismál: Knowledge of the world of the gods (with James Palmer)
  • Dr Graham Watson, Social and Economic Change in Northumbria under the sons of Oswiu
  • Dr Neil McGuigan, Scottish Expansion south of the Forth, 9th-12th centuries
  • Dr Tom Torma, Dairy Related Miracles and Narratives in the Lives of St Brigit of Kildare
  • Dr Michael Davidson, West-Saxon Hegemony in the Tenth Century
  • Professor James Fraser, The Conversion and Christianization of Southern Pictland
  • Dr Nancy Mitton, The Life and Career of Archbishop Stigand
  • Dr Margaret Cole, Llywelyn ab lorwerth: The Making of a Welsh Prince
  • Dr Peadar Morgan, Ethnonyms in Scottish Place-Names


Teaching Duties

Dr Woolf offers the following 3000 level honours courses:

and the following special subjects:

Participates in the teaching of the following Postgraduate courses:


Main Publications

From Pictland to Alba

Lanscape and Environment

Where was Govan in the Early Middle Ages?