Academic position: Associate Professor of Medieval History
UCL Website: Dr John Sabapathy
I am a historian of knowledge, rationalities, bureaucracy, law, and accountability, specializing in the period 1100–1400 CE. I work on problems of institutionalization: how humans create institutions yet then find it difficult or impossible to reform or escape what they have created. Such problems are central to any account of the Anthropocene. I am working on two related book projects.
The Cultivation of Christendom explores the problematic success of Europe’s institutionalization as Christendom during the thirteenth century within a wide ecological and inter-cultural context.
Emergency History explores how history as a discipline can orientate us inside the Anthropocene. It ranges very widely chronologically, geographically, and disciplinarily, providing long-term perspectives that challenge dominant, introverted short-term perspectives. It also explores how the Anthropocene challenges the discipline of history.
Before my academic career I worked with NGOs, companies, UK government departments and European Commission DGs on sustainable development and corporate accountability for the New Economics Foundation and AccountAbility.
Emergency History: A Natural History of Humanity for the Present
The Cultivation of Christendom 1187–1321: From the Fall of Jerusalem to the Death of Dante (forthcoming, Oxford University Press)
Individuals and Institutions in Medieval Scholasticism, co-edited with Antonia Fitzpatrick (Royal Historical Society/Institute of Historical Research, 2020)
Officers and Accountability in Medieval England 1170-1300 (Oxford University Press, 2014) (Winner of the Royal Historical Society Whitfield Prize 2015)
‘Some difficulties in forming persecuting societies before Lateran IV canon 8: Robert of Courson thinks about communities and inquisition’, in Gert Melville and Johannes Helmrath (ed.), The Fourth Lateran Council: Institutional Reform and Spiritual Renewal (Didymos-Verlag, 2017), pp. 175-200
‘COVID-19 – the whole story’ podcast on the history of epidemics (May, 2020)
‘Inquests and accountability: on the Iraq Inquiry’, History Today, online (5th July 2016)
‘Emergency History: A Natural History of Humanity for the Present’ (HIST0399, undergraduate 2nd–final year thematic module)
‘Comprehending COVID-19: A pandemic in social and historical perspective’ (interdisciplinary collaborative final year UG module)