A research project of the Department of Classics, Ancient History and Egyptology

Project Lead: Professor Mark Humphries

Project Summary

This project offers a radically new, global approach to the period in Mediterranean history termed ‘late antiquity’ (200-800 CE). The period is often associated with the political dismemberment of the Roman Empire in the West and its replacement by kingdoms ruled by elites (the ‘barbarians’) who had originated beyond the empire’s frontiers in territories stretching from the river Rhine in the West to central Asia. In both traditional narratives and some recent restatements, this is presented as a negative rupture, as catastrophic decline and fall. Another approach to this topic, however, has stressed that events within the Roman world need to be understood as reflecting overlapping histories of the Mediterranean and wider world. Recent scholarship shows increasing interest in interactions between the Roman world and Eurasia, as well as connections in the West with northern Europe, and across the Sahara with the Niger bend. Such studies open up completely new vistas on late antiquity, and the project aims to be at the forefront of this major reassessment.

Potential PhD topics could include studies of long-distance connectivity, comparative analyses, or investigations of how the global world of late antiquity was made up of myriad local histories.

Supervisors: Students will have a Supervisory Team consisting of a minimum of two eligible supervisors to provide academic, administrative and pastoral supervision and support. Supervisory teams will include: Professor Mark Humphries as primary supervisor, and a second supervisor chosen in accordance with the nature of the student’s specific research topic.  


Mark Humphries’s research on the global aspect of late antiquity has been advanced in a series of publications since 2007 (see below), particularly ‘Late Antiquity and World History’ (2017), which was the first article published in the inaugural issue of the University of California Press journal Studies in Late Antiquity, which itself advocates a global approach to the epoch. The article stressed the intersections of local and global networks of power, trade, and cultural exchange and laid down a research agenda for future research on the topic. It is his intention to pursue this as his next major research project, with the expectation that he will prepare a major funding bid at the end of his term as head of department.

Humphries enjoys strong and close relationships with a variety of scholarly networks, both nationally and internationally. Nationally, he enjoys a close collaboration with a cluster of colleagues working on late antiquity at Cardiff University, especially Professor Josef Lössl, Dr Shaun Tougher, and Dr Nic Baker-Brian; with Tougher and Baker-Brian he has organised workshops and conference sessions on a collaborative project on imperial capitals in late antiquity. Nationally, he is also in heavy demand as an examiner of doctoral theses; many of those whom he has examined have since gone on to full-time academic posts (e.g. Professor Richard Flower, Exeter; Dr Jamie Wood, Lincoln; Dr Adrastos Omissi, Glasgow; Dr Rebecca Usherwood, Trinity College Dublin), and he has, subsequent to examining them, mentored them as part of their early career development. His international links are reflected in various ways, such as participation by invitation at international conferences (in the last 18 months at Helsinki, Ghent, Amsterdam, and Lisbon). The publication in Studies in Late Antiquity reflects strong connections with North American scholarship. He also has ongoing research connections with the universities of the Sorbonne (via Prof. Giusto Traina, who currently leads a project on Great Armenia in late antiquity) and Ghent (via Dr Jeroen Wijnendaele, a Flemish Research Council postdoctoral researcher on transformations of political leadership in late antiquity). Above all, as one of the general editors of the acclaimed series Translated Texts for Historians, whichpublishes monographic studies of late-antique sources (https://liverpooluniversitypress.co.uk/collections/series-translated-texts-for-historians), he is connected with an international network of scholars who work on a variety of literatures from the Mediterranean world and beyond.


Major relevant publications:

‘Narrative and Space in Christian Chronography: John of Biclaro on East, West, and Orthodoxy’, in P. Van Nuffelen (ed.), Historiography and Space in Late Antiquity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2018).

‘Late Antiquity and World History: Challenging Conventional Narratives and Analyses’, Studies in Late Antiquity: A Journal 1 (2017), 8-37.

‘The Shapes and Shaping of the Late Antique World: global and local perspectives’, in P. Rousseau (ed.), A Companion to Late Antiquity (Blackwell Companions to the Ancient World) (Oxford: Blackwell, 2009), 97-109.

‘International relations’, in Hans van Wees, Philip Sabin, & Michael Whitby (eds) The Cambridge History of Greek and Roman Warfare II Rome from the Late Republic to the Late Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 235-269.

‘A New Created World: classical geographical texts and Christian contexts in late antiquity’, in J. H. D. Scourfield (ed.) Texts and Culture in Late Antiquity: inheritance, authority, and change (Swansea: Classical Press of Wales, 2007), 33-67.



Emperors, Tyrants, and Kings: Civil War, Regional Politics, and the End of the Roman Empire, AD 200-500(Edinburgh University Press: forthcoming).

Early Christianity (Classical Foundations series) (London & New York: Routledge, 2006).

Communities of the Blessed: social environment and religious change in northern Italy AD 200-400 (Oxford Early Christian Studies) (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999).

Current PhD students: Nick Mataya, Expansion of Christianity in the late-antique Balkans,300-600.