Professor John Sabapathy

John Sabapathy is Professor of History and works on the comparative history of Europe/Christendom primarily in the twelfth to fourteenth centuries. He also works on the Anthropocene (the proposed epoch in which humans became geological forces globally) and co-convenes UCL Anthropocene – 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. An edited collection on Individuals and Institutions in Medieval Scholasticism was published in 2020. 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. 

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, religious 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 Genevieve Caulfield (sight and trust in medieval optics and theology; LAHP funded); Joe Hopper (writing and redemption at St Victor; UCL funded); and Hugo Raine (Italian communal economic and legal thinking in practice; UCL funded); he second supervises Vanessa Da Silva Baptista (medieval magic tricks). He has supervised/co-supervised theses on Polish ecclesiastical institutions in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries (Dr Agata Zielinska, LAHP funded) and thirteenth-century queens’ letters (Dr Anaïs Waag) and second supervised theses on lying, deceit and casuistry (Dr Emily Corran, LAHP funded), ideals of elite conduct in Norway, Denmark and England (Dr Louisa Taylor), and papal overlordship (Dr Benedict Wiedemann, LAHP funded).

Major publications

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

Projects and fellowships

  • Directeur d’études invité, EHESS, Centre Alexandre-Koyré, (April 2022)
  • 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)


  • Anthropocene Studies (GEOG0183, final year 1 term UG module, on offer from 2024)
  • Gaia's Ancestors: Approaches to Medieval Ecologies and Environments (HIST0905 MA 1 term module, on offer from 2024)
  • 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 (ANTH0212, final year 1 term cross-Faculty module)
  • The Invention of the Question: A History of European Thinking, 1100–1400 (MDVL0054, MA 1 term module)
  • Between Rome & Avignon: Antichrists, heretics, princes & the papacy 1294–1334 (final year undergraduate special subject, not on offer 2020-1)