About our staff
Dr Nicholas Matheou
MA (Hons), MPhil, DPhil
Lecturer in Global Medieval History
Affiliated research centres
Born in Hong Kong and raised in London, with Cypriot, Irish and Scots (itself including Anglo-Indian) heritage, my own background has made me acutely aware of how globalisation and colonialism have structured today’s world. Already as a pre-teen I knew I wanted to spend my life reading and talking about the Middle Ages, and was always attracted to the “edges” of the traditional medieval world. As an undergraduate reading Ancient & Medieval History here in Edinburgh that meant taking every course I could on the Mediterranean and Middle East, finding my way from the kingdom of Sicily to the empire of New Rome (“Byzantium”). As a postgraduate in Oxford it meant focusing on New Rome’s connections to the Eurasian steppe, particularly the Seljuq Turkish invasions. I learned Armenian for a second regional window onto these crucial events, and this quickly became the focus of my doctoral research in the Faculty of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies. My eyes were opened to the rich stories of medieval Caucasia, Armenians and their sources, with connections to almost all of Afro-Eurasia, from the European peninsula to China, and providing a unique perspective for touching almost everywhere, but dominating nowhere.
My evolving research interests made clear the limitations and Eurocentrism of traditional disciplinary boundaries, and the global turn presents the perfect vehicle to begin breaking these down. My first postdoctoral position was as Past & Present Research Fellow at the Institute of Historical Research in the University of London’s School of Advanced Study, with the research programme ‘Hegemony & Counterpower: Approaches to Global History in Medieval Caucasia’. Following this I was appointed programme manager at the Armenian Institute, London, before returning home to Edinburgh for this post.
I welcome enquiries from postgraduates who want to work on global and comparative approaches to the Middle Ages, medieval social and economic history, medieval Armenians and Caucasia, the Eurasian steppe and Mongol world-empire, and the use of history to develop and apply social and economic theory from radical, Marxist and/or decolonising standpoints.
Summary of research interestsPlaces:
- Near East
- Comparative & Global History
- Economic History
- Medieval & Renaissance
Global social & economic history (especially 700-1500); Armenian & Caucasian studies; the Eurasian steppe & Mongol world-empire; Byzantine studies, the Mediterranean & the Islamicate World; pre-capitalist political economy; commercialisation & long histories of capitalist modernity; Marxism; World Systems Analysis; decolonising & subaltern approaches.
Current research activities
I am a global social and economic historian, specialising in medieval Afro-Eurasia. My research combines textual analysis, especially in Armenian, Georgian, Greek, Latin and Persian, with material culture, epigraphy, numismatics, climate data and landscape approaches. At the core sits eastern Anatolia, Upper Mesopotamia and Caucasia as a global-historical region, and Armenian material as a crucially decentred and decolonising window on the Global Middle Ages. Through this research I theorise historical themes such as the political economy of pre-capitalist state-systems (sedentary & nomadic), long histories of capitalist modernity, urbanisation, and hegemony and counterpower. My current research direction is particularly focused on the Mongol world-empire.
My current project is titled ‘“The Fate of Unjust Cities”: Commercial Revolution, Global History & the Abandoned City of Ani, 900-1400’. This global social and economic history of the city of Ani in central South Caucasia, straddling the modern border between the republics of Turkey and Armenia, situates the city’s emergence, development and decline between the ninth and fourteenth centuries in macro regional and interregional transformations, especially the Afro-Eurasian Commercial Revolution and the Mongol world-empire. The project draws on Ani’s rich material remains, particularly the large corpus of monumental epigraphy, as well as numismatics, ceramics and architectural remains, supplemented by Armenian, Georgian, Greek and Persian literary sources. Exploring and theorising the political economy of different state-systems, long histories of commercial capitalism, and the agency of subaltern classes in macro-historical transformations, the project touches on global historical themes relevant across time and place.
Knowledge Exchange and Impact
Podcast episode on radical approaches to global history, influenced by the ideas of Kurdish revolutionary philosopher Abdullah Öcalan.
Public series 'Re-Introducing Ani, 900-2021', organised through the Armenian Institute, including a talk on my own research 'Re-Introducing the Medieval City of Ani, 900-1400'.
Putting Modes of Production to Work, webinar for The Oxford Research Centre for the Humanities (TORCH) on Marxist approaches to history. Readings can be found here.
Subalternity & Byzantine Studies, webinar for The Oxford Research Centre for the Humanities (TORCH) on the concept of subalternity and its potential application to the medieval world. Readings can be found here.
Lectures on Co-Taught Courses
Medieval Worlds (1st year):
- The Indian Ocean World
- The Mongol World Empire
- Voyages of "Discovery" & "New" Worlds
Global Connections Since 1450 (2nd year):
- Globalisation Before "the West"? The "Old World" on the Cusp of 1492
- World Revolution! The International Communist Movement, 1917-1991
Global Economy Since 1750 (2nd year):
- Marx, Marxism and the Critique of Capitalism
Introduction to Historiography (2nd Year):
- Civilization(s)? Decolonizing Global History Over the Long Term
Self-Taught Pathways & Courses
The Origin(s?) of Capitalism (for the 3rd year course Historical Skills & Methods 1)
Universal Khans: Life & Society in the Mongol World Empire, 1200-1400 (3rd year elective)
Globalisation Before Modernity? The World of the Silk Roads, 900-1400 (4th year special subject)
EUSA Teacher of the Year 2022/3 (Nominated)
MSc Pathways & Courses
From Venice to Quanzhou: Sources for Social & Economic History in the Global Middle Ages, 950-1350 (for core course Historical Research: Skills & Methods)
Narrating Crisis in the Imperial East, 1000-1071: Aristakēs Lastiverc'i's History & Homily on the Seljuq Turkish Invasions (Oxford University Press, forthcoming).
'Methodological Imperialism', in Benjamin Anderson & Mirela Ivanova (eds.), Is Byzantine Studies a Colonialist Discipline? (Pennsylvania University Press, 2023), 75-82.
'Hegemony, Counterpower & Global History. Medieval New Rome & Caucasia in a Critical Perspective', in Leslie Brubaker, Rebecca Darley & Daniel Reynolds (eds.), Global Byzantium (2022), 208-236.
'Merchant Capital, Taxation & Urbanisation. The City of Ani in the Global Long Thirteenth Century', Medieval Worlds, No.14 (2021), 76-116.
'Hegemony, Elitedom & Ethnicity: "Armenians" in Imperial Bari, c.874-1071', in Thomas J. MacMaster & Nicholas S.M. Matheou (eds.), Italy & the East Roman World in the Medieval Mediterranean (2021).
'Revisiting Pre-Modern Ethnicity & Nationhood', Medieval Worlds, No.5 (2017), 54-56.
'City and Sovereignty in East Roman Thought, c.1000-1200: Ioannes Zonaras' Historical Vision of the Roman State', in Nicholas S.M. Matheou, Theofili Kampianaki & Lorenzo M. Bondioli (eds.), The City & the Cities: From Constantinople to the Frontier (2016).
'Khoniates' Asia Minor: Earthly and Ultimate Causes of Decline', in Maximillian Lau, Caterina Franchi & Morgan di Rodi (eds.), Landscapes of Power (2014).