Christopher Wickham


Christopher Wickham

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Christopher John “Chris” WickhamFBAFLSW (born 18 May 1950) is a British historian and academic. He is emeritus Chichele Professor of Medieval History at the University of Oxford and Fellow of All Souls College. He was Professor of Early Medieval History at the University of Birmingham from 1997 to 2005.

Early life[edit]

Wickham was born on 18 May 1950. He was educated at Millfield, a public school in Street, Somerset, England.[1] From 1968 to 1975, he studied at Keble College, Oxford.[2] He graduated from the University of Oxford with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree.[1] He then remained to undertake postgraduate research and completed his Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) degree in 1975 with a thesis entitled Economy and society in 8th century northern Tuscany.[3]

Academic career[edit]

Wickham spent nearly thirty years of his career at the University of Birmingham. He was a Lecturer from 1977 to and 1987 and a Senior Lecturer from 1987 to 1989. He was promoted to Reader in 1989, and made Professor of Medieval History in 1993.[1]

In 2005, he was appointed Chichele Professor of Medieval History in the University of Oxford and Fellow of All Souls College. Since September 2015, he has been Head of the Humanities Division of the University of Oxford.[4] He retired at the end of the 2015/2016 academic year, in line with Oxford’s mandatory retirement policy.[5] Upon retirement, Wickham was appointed Professor of Medieval History on a part-time basis at the University of Birmingham.[6]

From June 2009 to July 2011, Wickham served as a company director of the Past and Present Society.[7] On 6 July 2013, Wickham was appointed a company director of the Past and Present Society. He retains this position as of 2019.[8]


His main area of research is Medieval Italy – and more specifically Tuscany and central Italy – from the end of the Roman empire through to about 1300. His emphasis has largely been social and economic, though he has undertaken study into the legal and political history of the area as well. More generally Wickham has worked under a modified Marxist framework on how European society changed from late antiquity and the early Middle Ages, and has pioneered comparative socio-economic analysis in this period.

In 2005 his work Framing the Early Middle Ages was published, which claims to be the first synthesis of early medieval European history since the 1920s. It is exceptional for its use of hitherto unincorporated evidence from both documentary and archaeological sources, as well as its bold use of comparative methods and rejection of national narratives. It has been recognised by various prizes, including the Wolfson History Prize in 2005, the Deutscher Memorial Prize in 2006 and the American Historical Association awarded its James Henry Breasted Prize in January 2007. He has recently just edited Marxist History Writing for the Twenty-First Century, a volume that sees various academics discuss the status and profile of Marxist historiography, and has now produced a general history of early medieval Europe, published by Penguin, which examines cultural, religious and intellectual developments of the period not covered in his previous socio-economic study.

Personal life[edit]

Wickham is married to Leslie Brubaker, the Professor of Byzantine Art at the University of Birmingham.

He is a member of the Labour Party,[1] and was previously a member of the Democratici di Sinistra (Democrats of the Left).


In 1998, Wickham was elected a Fellow of the British Academy (FBA).[9] In 2006, he was awarded the Wolfson History Prize for his book Framing the Early Middle Ages: Europe and the Mediterranean 400–800.[10] In 2014, he was awarded the Serena Medal by the British Academy “in recognition of his reputation as a medieval historian of exceptional distinction who has transformed our understanding of the early medieval Italian world.”.[11]


Published works[edit]


  • Economy and society in 8th century northern Tuscany (1975)
  • Early medieval Italy: central power and local society, 400–1000 (1981)
  • The mountains and the city: the Tuscan Apennines in the early Middle Ages (1988)
  • City and countryside in Late Medieval and Renaissance Italy: essays presented to Philip Jones edited by Trevor Dean and Chris Wickham. (1990)
  • Land and power: studies in Italian and European social history, 400–1200 (1994)
  • Community and clientele in twelfth-century Tuscany: the origins of the rural commune in the plain of Lucca (1998)
  • Courts and conflict in twelfth-century Tuscany (2003)
  • Framing the early Middle Ages: Europe and the Mediterranean 400–800 (2005)
  • Marxist History-Writing for the Twenty-First Century (2007; editor)
  • The Inheritance of Rome: A History of Europe from 400 to 1000 (2009)
  • Medieval Rome (2014)
  • Sleepwalking into a New World: The Emergence Italian City Communes in the Twelfth Century (2015)
  • Medieval Europe (2016)

Recent major articles[edit]

  • ‘Un pas vers le moyen âge’ in Les campagnes de la Gaule à la fin de l’Antiquité (ed. P. Ouzoulias et al.), (Antibes, 2001) pp. 555–67
  • ‘Medieval studies and the British School at Rome’, Papers of the British School at Rome. Vol lxix (2001) pp. 35–48
  • ‘Paludi e miniere nella Maremma toscana, XI-XIII secoli’ in Castrum 7 (ed. J.-M. Martin), (Rome, 2001) pp. 451–66
  • (with E. Fentress), ‘La valle dell’Albegna fra i secoli VII e XIV’ in Siena e Maremma nel Medioevo (ed. M. Ascheri), (Sienna, 2001) pp. 59–82
  • ‘Rural economy and society’ in Italy in the early Middle Ages (ed. C. La Rocca), (Oxford, 2001) pp. 118–43
  • ‘Society’ in The Early Middle Ages (ed. R. McKitterick), (Oxford, 2001) pp. 59–94
  • ‘Una valutazione sull’archeologia medievale italiana’, Quaderni storici. Vol cvi (2001) pp. 295–301
  • ‘Comunidades rurales y señorio debil: el caso del norte de Italia, 1050–1250’ in Comunidades locales y poderes feudales en la Edad media (ed. I. Álvarez), (Logroño, 2001) pp. 395–415