Dr John Sabapathy

John Sabapathy is Associate Professor of Medieval History and works on the comparative history of Europe/Christendom in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. He also works on the Anthropocene (the epoch in which humans became geological forces globally) and is collaborating with colleagues across UCL on a major initiative in this area.

His monograph Officers and Accountability in Medieval England, 1170-1300, a study of English officers in a European context, won the Royal Historical Society's Whitfield Prize for 2015. John is working on two projects. One is a wide-ranging study of thirteenth-century Europe for the new Oxford History of Medieval Europe series. The second explores the place and contribution of history in the Anthropocene. Work in press analyses Gui Foucois, the bureaucrat who became Pope Clement IV (1265–1268), and Dante Alighieri’s imperial thinking.

Before returning to UCL (where he took his PhD), he was a Junior Research Fellow at St John's College, Oxford. Between his BA and graduate degrees, John worked in public policy on sustainable development and corporate accountability with a range of international think tanks, NGOs, corporations, and British and European governmental bodies.

PhD supervision

John is happy to discuss research proposals from students on topics addressing the political, intellectual and/or cultural history of medieval Europe as well as the Anthropocene. Please get in touch at the start of the academic year in which you wish to apply.

Supervision: John currently supervises Agata Zielinska (LAHP funded; Polish ecclesiastical institutions in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries), and Genevieve Caulfield (LAHP funded; sight and trust in medieval optics and theology); he second supervises Vanessa Da Silva Baptista (medieval magic tricks). He has co-supervised theses on thirteenth-century queens’ letters (Anaïs Waag) and second supervised theses on lying and deceit (Emily Corran), ideals of elite conduct in Norway, Denmark and England (Louisa Taylor), and papal overlordship (Benedict Wiedemann).

Major publications

  • Officers and Accountability in Medieval England 1170-1300 (Oxford University Press, 2014)
  • Individuals and Institutions in Medieval Scholasticism, co-edited with Antonia Fitzpatrick (Royal Historical Society/Institute of Historical Research: London, 2020)
  • ‘Introduction: individuals and institutions in medieval scholasticism’, with Antonia Fitzpatrick, in Fitzpatrick and Sabapathy (ed.), Individuals and Institutions in Medieval Scholasticism, pp. 1-48
  • ‘Robert of Courson’s systematic thinking about early thirteenth-century institutions’, in Fitzpatrick and Sabapathy (ed.), Individuals and Institutions in Medieval Scholasticism, pp. 197-214
  • ‘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
  • ‘Thinking politically with Innocent III: Prudence and providence’, Thirteenth-Century England 15, Authority and Resistance in the Age of Magna Carta. Proceedings of the Aberystwyth and Lampeter Conference, 2013 (Boydell and Brewer, 2015), pp. 115–136

For a full list of publications, see John's Iris profile.

Projects and fellowships

  • Directeur d’études invité, l’École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Groupe d’Anthropologie historique du long Moyen Âge (April-May 2021 – deferred from May 2020 because of COVID-19)
  • Leverhulme Trust Research Fellow, ‘The institutionalization of Europe in the thirteenth century’ (2018–2019)
  • Visiting Scholar, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (2019)
  • Working Group Member, ‘History of Bureaucratic Knowledge’, Department II, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin (2018-2019)
  • UCL-Oxford University project ‘Individuals and institutions in Medieval Scholasticism’, CO-PI with Dr Antonia Fitzpatrick (formerly Oxford University).


  • Contributor to UCL podcast, ‘COVID-19 – the whole story’ on the history of epidemics, 2020
  • ‘Inquests and accountability: on the Iraq Inquiry’, History Today, online (5th July 2016)
  • Financial Times video on parallels between the 'gig' (e.g. Uber/Deliveroo) and 'feudal' economies, 2016
  • Wrote and presented a documentary (Inside Job Productions) marking the 2012 millennium of St Alfege's Church, Greenwich (St Alfege/Ælfheah was an archbishop of Canterbury, possibly martyred in 1012 by being battered to death by ox bones at a drunken Viking banquet)


  • The First European Union? Christendom 1187–1321 (HIST0033, undergraduate 1st–second year survey module)
  • Emergency History: A Natural History of Humanity for the Present (HIST0399, undergraduate 2nd–final year thematic module)
  • COVID-19 in Social and Historical Perspective (*new* final year 1 term cross-Faculty module for September 2020)
  • The Invention of the Question: A History of European Thinking, 1100–1400 (MDVL0054, MA 1 term module, not on offer 2020-1)
  • Between Rome & Avignon: Antichrists, heretics, princes & the papacy 1294–1334 (final year undergraduate special subject, not on offer 2020-1)