St John's College Oxford

Dr Philippa Byrne

Stipendiary Lecturer in Medieval History


I teach tutorials and classes on British, European and World history from c.1000 to c.1500, in addition to papers on historiography, approaches to history and disciplines of history. I also take students for specialist papers on political thought and religious life in the middle ages, and supervise undergraduate and graduate students working on topics such as medieval law and theology.

Research Interests

As a historian of ideas, my work explores the way people think, argue and organise their societies, and the relationship between texts and politics.

My research is driven by the question of how medieval people used religious texts to interpret and re-form the world around them, and I have published a number of articles on this topic. My first book (forthcoming) is titled ‘The Judgment of Mercy: Justice, Common Law and Moral Theology in Twelfth-Century England’ and looks at the interaction between lawyers and theologians during the foundational period of the English common law.

Having begun my academic career a historian of northern European scholasticism, my focus has more recently turned to the Mediterranean and Near East. My current project looks at the interaction between Christian, Islamic and Jewish thought in the Norman Sicily, a turbulent and complex polity.

More generally, I am interested in outreach activities and widening participation in higher education, and improving how medieval studies as a discipline communicates and engages with the public.