Recent publications

Information about the latest books and articles published by UCL History staff.

Papal Jurisprudence

David L. d'Avray, Papal Jurisprudence, 385–1234: Social Origins and Medieval Reception of Canon Law (Cambridge University Press, 2022)

Why did bishops turn to the papacy for advice in late Antiquity? And what does the reception of these decretals reveal about the legal and religious culture of the mid-thirteenth century? This interpretative volume seeks to explain the first decretal age of late antiquity, placing the increased demand for papal jurisprudence – long before it exerted its influence through religious fear – within its social broad context. D. L. d'Avray then traces the reception of this jurisprudence through to the mid-thirteenth century, and the post-Gratian decretal age. Along the way he explores the role of Charlemagne and 'Pseudo-Isidore', which included many genuine early decretals alongside forged ones. Similarities between the Latin world c. 400 and c. 1200 thus help explain parallels between the two decretal ages. This book also analyses decretals from both ages in chapters on pagan marriages, clerics in minor orders, and episcopal elections. For both ages the relation between canon law and other religious genres is elucidated, demonstrating many fascinating parallels and connections.

The Dreadful Monster

Julian Hoppit, The Dreadful Monster and its Poor Relations Taxing, Spending and the United Kingdom, 1707-2021 (Allen Lane, 2021)

It has always been an important part of British self-image to see the United Kingdom as an ancient, organic and sensibly managed place, in striking contrast to the convulsions of other European countries. To a limited degree this is true, but, as Julian Hoppit makes clear in this fascinating and surprising book, beneath the complacent surface the United Kingdom has in fact been in a constant, often very tense argument with itself about how it should be run and, most significantly, who should pay for what.

The book takes its argument from an eighteenth century cartoon which shows the central state as the 'Dreadful Monster', gorging itself at the dinner table on all the taxes it can grab. Meanwhile the 'Poor Relations' - Scotland, Wales and Ireland, both poor because of tax but also poor in the sense of needing special treatment - are viewed in London as an endless 'drain on the state'. With drastically different levels of prosperity, population, industry, agriculture and accessibility between the United Kingdom's different nations, what is a fair basis for paying for the state?

India and the Silk Roads

Jagjeet Lally, India and the Silk Roads: The History of a Trading World (Hurst, 2021)

India’s caravan trade with central Asia was at the heart of the complex web of routes making up the Silk Roads. But what was the fate of these overland connections in the ages of sail and steam? Jagjeet Lally sets out to answer this question by bringing the world of caravan trade to life—a world of merchants, mercenaries, pastoralists and pilgrims, but also of kings, bureaucrats and their subjects in the countryside and towns.

The livelihoods of these figures did not become obsolete with the advent of ‘modern’ technologies and the consequent emergence of new global networks. Terrestrial routes remained critically important, not only handling flows of goods and money, but also fostering networks of trade in credit, secret intelligence and fighting power. With the waning of the Mughal Empire during the eighteenth century, new Indian kingdoms and their rulers came to the fore, drawing their power and prosperity from resources brought by caravan trade. The encroachment of British and Russian imperialism into this commercial arena in the nineteenth century gave new significance to some people and flows, while steadily undermining others.

India and the Silk Roads is a global history of a continental interior, the first to comprehensively examine the textual and material traces of caravan trade in the ‘age of empires’. By showing how no single ruler could control the nebulous yet durable networks of this trading world, which had its own internal dynamics even as it evolved in step with global transformations, Lally forces us to rethink the history of globalisation and re-evaluate our fixation with empires and states as the building blocks of historical analysis. It is a narrative resonating with our own times, as China’s Belt and Road Initiative brings terrestrial forms of connectivity back to the fore—transforming life across Eurasia once again.

Soldiers saints and shamans

Nathaniel Morris, Soldiers, Saints, and Shamans: Indigenous Communities and the Revolutionary State in Mexico’s Gran Nayar, 1910–1940 (Arizona University Press, 2020). 

The Mexican Revolution gave rise to the Mexican nation-state as we know it today. Rural revolutionaries took up arms against the Díaz dictatorship in support of agrarian reform, in defense of their political autonomy, or inspired by a nationalist desire to forge a new Mexico. However, in the Gran Nayar, a rugged expanse of mountains and canyons, the story was more complex, as the region’s four Indigenous peoples fought both for and against the revolution and the radical changes it bought to their homeland.

To make sense of this complex history, Nathaniel Morris offers the first systematic understanding of the participation of the Náayari, Wixárika, O’dam, and Mexicanero peoples in the Mexican Revolution. They are known for being among the least “assimilated” of all Mexico’s Indigenous peoples. It’s often been assumed that they were stuck up in their mountain homeland—“the Gran Nayar”—with no knowledge of the uprisings, civil wars, military coups, and political upheaval that convulsed the rest of Mexico between 1910 and 1940.

Papal Jurisprudence

David L. d'Avray (ed.), Papal Jurisprudence c. 400: Sources of the Canon Law Tradition (Cambridge University Press, 2019)

In the late fourth century, in the absence of formal church councils, bishops from all over the Western Empire wrote to the Pope asking for advice on issues including celibacy, marriage law, penance and heresy, with papal responses to these questions often being incorportated into private collections of canon law. Most papal documents were therefore responses to questions from bishops, and not initiated from Rome. Bringing together these key texts, this volume of accessible translations and critical transcriptions of papal letters is arranged thematically to offer a new understanding of attitudes towards these fundamental issues within canon law. Papal Jurisprudence, c.400 reveals what bishops were asking, and why the replies mattered. It is offered as a companion to the forthcoming volume Papal Jurisprudence: Social Origins and Medieval Reception of Canon Law, 385–1234.


William Selinger, Parliamentarism (Cambridge University Press, 2019).

For eighteenth- and nineteenth-century authors such as Burke, Constant, and Mill, a powerful representative assembly that freely deliberated and controlled the executive was the defining institution of a liberal state. Yet these figures also feared that representative assemblies were susceptible to usurpation, gridlock, and corruption. Parliamentarism was their answer to this dilemma: a constitutional model that enabled a nation to be truly governed by a representative assembly. Offering novel interpretations of canonical liberal authors, this history of liberal political ideas suggests a new paradigm for interpreting the development of modern political thought, inspiring fresh perspectives on historical issues from the eighteenth to early twentieth centuries. In doing so, Selinger suggests the wider significance of parliament and the theory of parliamentarism in the development of European political thought, revealing how contemporary democratic theory, and indeed the challenges facing representative government today, are historically indebted to classical parliamentarism.

Ancient Knowledge Networks

Eleanor Robson, Ancient Knowledge Networks: A Social Geography of Cuneiform Scholarship in First-Millennium Assyria and Babylonia (UCL Press, 2019).

Ancient Knowledge Networks is a book about how knowledge travels, in minds and bodies as well as in writings. It explores the forms knowledge takes and the meanings it accrues, and how these meanings are shaped by the peoples who use it.

Addressing the relationships between political power, family ties, religious commitments and literate scholarship in the ancient Middle East of the first millennium BC, Eleanor Robson focuses on two regions where cuneiform script was the predominant writing medium: Assyria in the north of modern-day Syria and Iraq, and Babylonia to the south of modern-day Baghdad. She investigates how networks of knowledge enabled cuneiform intellectual culture to endure and adapt over the course of five world empires until its eventual demise in the mid-first century BC. In doing so, she also studies Assyriological and historical method, both now and over the past two centuries, asking how the field has shaped and been shaped by the academic concerns and fashions of the day. Above all, Ancient Knowledge Networks is an experiment in writing about ‘Mesopotamian science’, as it has often been known, using geographical and social approaches to bring new insights into the intellectual history of the world’s first empires.

Grids of Power

María Ángeles Martín Romera, Redes de poder. Las relaciones sociales de la oligarquía de Valladolid a finales de la Edad Media [Grids of Power. The Social Network of a Castilian city in the Late Middle Ages] (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 2019).

Urban oligarchies and the sources of their power are an important subject of debate among historians of the late Middle Ages. In the last decades historians have extensively debated the origin of these oligarchies, the way they gained and maintained control over urban institutions and the challenges they encountered, especially in the form of resistance from other social groups.

Redes de poder combines these historiographical questions with an innovative digital humanities approach. Considering social capital as the main source of power for urban oligarchies, the study turns to Social Network Analysis (SNA) to offer a new interpretation of the complex networks in which oligarchies were embedded during the transition from the late medieval to the early modern period. The book is both a fundamental contribution to the history of cities in medieval Castile and to the new interdisciplinary field of Historical Social Network Analysis.

Raymond Aron

Iain Stewart, Raymond Aron and Liberal Thought in the Twentieth Century (Cambridge University Press, 2019).

Raymond Aron is widely regarded as the most important figure in the history of twentieth-century French liberalism. Yet his status within the history of liberal thought has been more often proclaimed than explained. Though he is frequently lauded as the inheritor of France's liberal tradition, Aron's formative influences were mostly non-French and often radically anti-liberal thinkers. This book explains how, why, and with what consequences he belatedly defined and aligned himself with a French liberal tradition. It also situates Aron within the larger histories of Cold War liberalism and decolonization, re-evaluating his contribution to debates over totalitarianism, the end of ideology, and the Algerian War. By exposing the enduring importance of Aron's student political engagements for the development of his thought, Iain Stewart challenges the prevailing view of Aron's early intellectual trajectory as a journey from naïve socialist idealism to mature liberal realism, offering a new critical perspective on one of the twentieth century's most influential intellectuals.

History of Medieval Magic

Sophie Page and Catherine Rider (eds), The Routledge History of Medieval Magic (Routledge Histories, 2019).

The Routledge History of Medieval Magic brings together the work of scholars from across Europe and North America to provide extensive insights into recent developments in the study of medieval magic between c.1100 and c.1500.

The book includes contributions from a wide variety of leading scholars, and takes an interdisciplinary approach with chapters covering visual culture, music, literature and archeology, as well as texts and manuscripts. The book has also taken care to consider how research in this area could develop in the future. The book identifies topics which are yet to be thoroughly explored, highlights unpublished source materials and suggests new approaches to the topic as a whole.

Johanna Dale

Johanna Dale, Inauguration and Liturgical Kingship in the Long Twelfth Century: Male and Female Accession Rituals in England, France and the Empire (Boydell and Brewer: York Medieval Press, 2019).

Inauguration and Liturgical Kingship in the Long Twelfth Century: Male and Female Accession Rituals in England, France and the Empire offers a revisionist angle to the question of sacral kingship, showing the continued importance of liturgical ceremonial in the twelfth century and onward.

Book cover for Kathleen Burk, the Lion and the Eagle

Kathleen Burk, The Lion and the Eagle: The interaction of the British and American Empires 1783-1972 (Bloomsbury: London, 2018).

Throughout modern history, British and American rivalry has gone hand in hand with common interests. In this book, Kathleen Burk examines the different kinds of power the two empires have projected, and the means they have used to do it. What the two empires have shared is a mixture of pragmatism, ruthless commercial drive, a self-righteous foreign policy and plenty of naked aggression. These have been aimed against each other more than once; yet their underlying alliance against common enemies has been historically unique and a defining force throughout the twentieth century.

Book cover for Michael Facius, China ubersetzen

Michael Facius, China übersetzen: Globalisierung und chinesisches Wissen in Japan im 19. Jahrhundert [Translating China: globalization and Chinese knowledge in 19th-century Japan] (Campus: Frankfurt, 2017)

Japan's interactions with the traditions of Chinese knowledge, its texts and ideas, shaped the country's view of the world and its response to nineteenth-century globalisation. At the same time, they were themselves affected by the consequences of global integration. From early modern Confucianism to the Sinology of the empire, from poetry to linguistics, this study for the first time comprehensively describes the transformation of a field of knowledge which has often been neglected in favour of a focus on the influence of the Western sciences, but which is indispensable to the full understanding of Japanese history.

Class, Politics, and the Decline of Deference in England

Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite, Class, Politics, and the Decline of Deference in England (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2018)

Using self-narratives drawn from a wide range of sources - the raw materials of sociological studies, transcripts from oral history projects, Mass Observation, and autobiography - this book examines class identities and narratives of social change between 1968 and 2000, showing that by the end of the period, class was often seen as a historical identity, related to background and heritage, and that many felt strict class boundaries had blurred profoundly since 1945. Class snobberies 'went underground' as people from many backgrounds began to assert that what was important was authenticity, individuality, and ordinariness. Sutcliffe-Braithwaite argues that it is most useful to understand the cultural changes of these years through the lens of the decline of deference, which transformed people's attitudes towards both class and politics.

East India Company at Home

Margot Finn and Kate Smith (eds), The East India Company at Home, 1757-1857 (London: UCL Press, 2018)

The East India Company at Home, 1757-1857 explores how empire in Asia shaped British country houses, their interiors and the lives of their residents. It focuses on the propertied families of the East India Company at the height of Company rule. From the Battle of Plassey in 1757 to the outbreak of the Indian Uprising in 1857, objects, people and wealth flowed to Britain from Asia. As men in Company service increasingly shifted their activities from trade to military expansion and political administration, a new population of civil servants, army officers, surveyors and surgeons journeyed to India to make their fortunes. These Company men and their families acquired wealth, tastes and identities in India, which travelled home with them to Britain. Their stories, the biographies of their Indian possessions and the narratives of the stately homes in Britain that came to house them, frame our explorations of imperial culture and its British legacies.

Imagining Chinese Medicine

Vivienne Lo and Penelope Barrett (eds), Imagining Chinese Medicine (Leiden: Brill, 2018)

A unique collection of 36 chapters on the history of Chinese medical illustrations, this volume will take the reader on a remarkable journey from the imaging of a classical medicine to instructional manuals for bone-setting, to advertising and comic books of the Yellow Emperor. In putting images, their power and their travels at the centre of the analysis, this volume reveals many new and exciting dimensions to the history of medicine and embodiment, and challenges eurocentric histories. At a broader philosophical level, it challenges historians of science to rethink the epistemologies and materialities of knowledge transmission. There are studies by senior scholars from Asia, Europe and the Americas as well as emerging scholars working at the cutting edge of their fields. Thanks to the generous support of the Wellcome Trust, this volume is available in Open Access.

Royal Reponsibility in Anglo-Norman Historical Writing

Emily A Winkler, Royal Responsibility in Anglo-Norman Historical Writing (Oxford: OUP, 2017)

In this monograph, Emily Winkler examines how eleventh-century kings were portrayed in the writings of four post-conquest historians: William of Malmesbury, Henry of Huntingdon, John of Worcester, and Geffrei Gaimar. In doing so uses a modern literary-critical approach to substantially revise the current historical picture of eleventh-century England, showing that twelfth-century historians' chronicles are products of a shared agenda that makes them unreliable as evidence about the eleventh-century past. 

The Stormy Present

Adam Smith, The Stormy Present: Conservatism and the Problem of Slavery in Northern Politics, 1846-1865 (Durham, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2017)

This history of Northern communities in the Civil War era offers a new interpretation of the familiar story of the path to war and ultimate victory. Smith looks beyond the political divisions between abolitionist Republicans and Copperhead Democrats to consider the everyday conservatism that characterized the majority of Northern voters. A sense of ongoing crisis in these Northern states created anxiety and instability, which manifested in a range of social and political tensions in individual communities. In the face of such realities, Smith argues that a conservative impulse was more than just a historical or nostalgic tendency; it was fundamental to charting a path to the future. At stake for Northerners was their conception of the Union as the vanguard in a global struggle between democracy and despotism, and their ability to navigate their freedoms through the stormy waters of modernity. As a result, the language of conservatism was peculiarly, and revealingly, prominent in Northern politics during these years. The story this book tells is of conservative people coming, in the end, to accept radical change.

We Do Not Have Borders

Keren Weitzberg, We Do Not Have Borders: Greater Somalia and the Predicaments of Belonging in Kenya (Columbus: Ohio UP, 2017)

Keren Weitzberg's monograph, We Do Not Have Borders: Greater Somalia and the Predicaments of Belonging in Kenya (Ohio UP, 2017), explores the position of the Somali population living in Kenya. Despite their long history in the country, Somalis are often ostracised by Kenyan officials and citizens and in recent years, allegations of civil and human rights abuses against them have increased. We Do Not Have Borders examines the factors that led to this state of affairs, challenging notions (such as 'tribe', 'race', and 'nation') that have traditionally shaped African historiography and sitting at the intersection of history, political science, and anthropology.

Britannia's Auxiliaries

Stephen Conway, Britannia's Auxiliaries: Continental Europeans and the British Empire, 1740-1800 (Oxford: OUP, 2017)

Britannia's Auxiliaries provides the first wide-ranging attempt to consider the continental European contribution to the eighteenth-century British Empire. The book explores the means by which continental Europeans came to play a part in British imperial activity at a time when, at least in theory, overseas empires were meant to be exclusionary structures, intended to serve national purposes. It looks at the ambitions of the continental Europeans themselves, and at the encouragement given to their participation by both private interests in the British Empire and by the British state. Concluding that the empire seems to have changed the Europeans who entered it more than they changed the empire, it qualifies recent scholarly emphasis on the transnational forces that undermined the efforts of imperial authorities to maintain exclusionary empires and suggests that those foreign Europeans who involved themselves in or with the British Empire, whatever their own perspective, acted as Britannia's auxiliaries.

Patrick Glen, '"Exploiting the Daydreams of Teenagers": Press reports and memories of cinema-going by young people in 1960s Britain', Media History, published online August 2017, doi 10.1080/13688804.2017.1367653

During the 1960s, young people were subject to intense scrutiny. Their lives differed from previous generations and as a consequence, they were portrayed as being at the forefront of social change and representative of Britain's national health. By comparing oral history interviews of those who were young and visited the cinema with media reports, this article evaluates the conversation around 'teenagers.' Newspapers' reports of youth arguably reflected their selection principles and journalistic practices. Oral history narratives, however, complicate press discourse by bringing to the fore a diversity of experiences and understandings: some felt the 'cultural revolution', while others felt bored. This demonstrates how studies of reception materials are incomplete and could benefit from being combined with ethnohistorical approaches.

Britain's Political Economies

Julian Hoppit, Britain's Political Economies: Parliament and Economic Life, 1660 - 1800 (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2017). 

The Glorious Revolution of 1688-9 transformed the role of parliament in Britain and its empire. Large numbers of statutes resulted, with most concerning economic activity. Julian Hoppit here provides the first comprehensive account of these acts, revealing how government affected economic life in this critical period prior to the Industrial Revolution, and how economic interests across Britain used legislative authority for their own benefit.

Rebecca Jennings, 'Lesbian Motherhood and the Artificial Insemination by Donor Scandal of 1978', 20th Century British History hwx013, published online April 2017

In January 1978, the London Evening News informed its readers of its shocking discovery that British lesbians were conceiving babies by artificial insemination by donor. This article explores the scandal that this news occasioned, analysing the stories of some of the women concerned to consider shifting ideas and practices of lesbian motherhood at this period.

Trust in Early Modern International Political Thought

Peter Schröder, Trust in Early Modern International Political Thought, 1598-1713 (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2017)

Can there ever be trust between states? This study explores the concept of trust across different and sometimes antagonistic genres of international political thought during the seventeenth century. The natural law and reason of state traditions worked on different assumptions, but they mutually influenced each other. How have these traditions influenced the different concepts and discussions of trust-building? Bringing together international political thought and international law, Schröder analyses to what extent trust can be seen as one of the foundational concepts in the theorising of interstate relations in this decisive period.

America in Italy

Axel Körner, America in Italy: The United States in the Political Thought and Imagination of the Risorgimento, 1763-1865 (Princeton: Princeton UP, 2017)

America in Italy examines the influence of the American political experience on the imagination of Italian political thinkers between the late eighteenth century and the unification of Italy in the 1860s. Showing how Italian political thought was shaped by American political debate, Axel Körner shows that European interest in developments across the Atlantic was more than just blind admiration. America became a sounding board for the critical assessment of societal changes at home.