Staff in Classics
Dr Zubin Mistry
BA, MA, PhD
Senior Lecturer; Early Medieval European History
Affiliated research centres
I grew up round the corner from Wembley Stadium in north-west London. A previous incarnation of this profile suggested that's what lies behind an amateur interest in the history of football. But I've since deleted this because my unusual ability to remember the hat-tricks scored by the former Arsenal, Middlesborough and Hull City footballer, Ray Parlour, was getting mistaken for some form of historical expertise. (Two hat-tricks, incidentally, against Werder Bremen and Newcastle United).
If I do have any expertise, it lies elsewhere. I studied Classics at Cambridge as an undergraduate before doing an MA in Ancient History and then a PhD, both at University College London, which makes it sound like this was always the plan. It wasn't. I originally wanted to be a ground-breaking investigative journalist who moonlighted as a satirist writing under a pseudonym. But, in a surprise development, things did not go to plan. Anyhow, originally a clean-cut classicist, I drifted into the post-Roman world as a PhD student and ended up a less than clean-cut medieval historian, though I retain a strong preference for dates with three digits. Throughout my postgraduate years I worked in a bookshop; if ever you catch me looking pensive, I'm probably reminiscing about the staff discount. While writing up the PhD I became one of those people who goes on about how good The Wire is.
We've now reached the point in the staff profile where established genre conventions dictate I skip over patchier bits of my employment history, omit to mention many unsuccessful applications as well as a few embarrassing interview stories and certainly leave out the fact that during this period I re-watched The Wire, which was even better on a second viewing.
So, let's just say I spent two years as a Teaching Fellow at University College London and, then, in 2014 moved to Queen Mary University of London as a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow. I moved up to Edinburgh in 2015 and morphed into a Lecturer in 2017. I was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2022, which suggests that career progression is possible even for people who are not entirely sure what 'leading development activity' means.
Within History, Classics and Archaeology I'm also involved in the Histories of Gender and Sexuality research group and the History of Science, Medicine and Technology research Group. I also serve on the University-wide genderED steering committee.
Fellow of the Royal Historical Society
Series editor, Global Histories of Premodern Health and Healing (Edinburgh University Press)
External examiner at University College London (2022-26)
Summary of research interestsPlaces:
- Medicine, Science & Technology
I'm a historian of early medieval Europe between 500 and 1000 whose work focusses in particular on reproduction. My research use topics like abortion and infertility to think about religious beliefs, legal regimes, political culture and medical practice. My first book explored the varying and even conflicting ways ecclesiastical authorities, secular powers and local communities reacted to abortion across several early medieval societies. While a lot of my research to date has been about how people thought, I am increasingly interested in social practice and experience.
Current research activities
Fertility and childlessness in western Europe (700-1000). This area of my research extends a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship project originally focussed on infertility in Carolingian politics, medicine and learning (750-900); for a little taster, here's a short piece for Retrospect, the undergraduate led History journal here at Edinburgh. I am interested in how people understood fertility and what was at stake when men and women who wanted to become parents did not have children. Alongside the more visible political dimensions of infertility, I am interested in trying to use documentary evidence to get at how people other than kings and queens negotiated childlessness. I am also interested in the significance of religious institutions to how chidless people handled questions of property, inheritance and family memory.
Early medieval health and medicine. I am broadly interested in rethinking medical knowledge and practice in early medieval societies, initially through my interest in reproduction. Various reproductive technologies survive in a sizeable, but still neglected, body of medical manuscripts. Many of these manuscripts were produced, exchanged and kept by religious institutions like monasteries and cathedrals. Fertility remedies in medical manuscripts from monasteries might seem pointless. I am currently trying to write up an article that uses lay men and women interactions with monasteries, including when dealing with infertility or childlessness (e.g. by asking for prayers or donating lands), help us understand how fertility remedies in manuscripts from monasteries might have moved beyond the cloister walls. I am also working on something that rethinks what 'monastic medicine' was and how it relates to broader healing economies in connection with this conference, which I have co-organised with Petros Bouras-Vallianatos.
Project Adheeldrudis. 'Current' research activity is stretching it a little...this is a new area of research I would like to move into within the next couple of years. Probably in the earlier tenth century, a woman called Adheeldrudis (or Heeldrudis) or someone acting on her behalf wrote a Latin prayer upside down in the margin of a manuscript. Seeking the intercession of St Susanna, Adheeldrudis prayed to God that she was not (or never would be?) pregnant. Getting to hear an early medieval woman's voice on unwanted pregnancy is highly unusual. Who was she? Did she already know she was pregnant and, if so, how did she know? Why did she write the prayer down? Why on a page explaining Greek terms used by theological authors? Was she a nun? Is that why she had access to the manuscript? Did she intend anyone else to read her words? Was she the one who actually wrote it down? Any answers require tackling even bigger questions about women's writing, participation in learning, knowledge of medicine and the body, and experiences of religious / secular life. I'm not sure I could quite call it microhistory...but I'd like to write something around, as much as about, Adheeldrudis's prayer by using it as a springboard to think about women, writing and the body before 1000 or so.
The Sterility of their Wives: Handling Infertility in Carolingian Europe (Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellowship, 2014-17)
Pre-honours (years 1 and 2)
- Medieval Worlds: A Journey through the Middle Ages
- Historian's Toolkit
- Introduction to Historiography
- Transformation of the Roman World ca. 300-800: Towards Byzantium and the Early Medieval West
Honours (years 3 and 4):
- Early Medieval Sexualities, c.500-1000
- Slavery in the Early Middle Ages
- Debating Marriage between Antiquity and the Middle Ages
- Sources of Medieval History
- Approaches to the Long Late Antiquity
- Historical Methodology
|Name||Degree||Thesis topic||Supervision type||Link|
|Hayley Boulton||PhD||The social and cultural contexts of gynaecological texts in the early medieval west, c. 700-1000||Joint supervisor|
|Kelli Conley||PhD||Lay masculinities and male bonding in Anglo-Saxon England, ca. 700-1000||Joint supervisor|
|Joseph Dax||PhD||Concepts of community in late antique Provence||Second supervisor|
|Murdo Homewood||PhD||Medical Imagery and the Experience of the Audience in the Pastoral Work of Augustine of Hippo||Second supervisor|
|Aristotelis Nayfa||PhD||Self-sustainability of the Byzantine court: Exploring the inflows, outflows, and provincial diffusion of tenth-century aristocratic funds||Additional supervisor|
|Name||Degree||Thesis topic||Supervision type||Completion year||Link|
|Emma Trivett||PhD||The significance of childlessness for thirteenth- and fourteenth-century English and Scottish royal couples||Joint supervisor||2022|
|Jae-keong Chan||PhD||Conflict, dispute, and charismatic leadership: Lanfranc of Canterbury and his ecclesiastical leadership in Norman England||Second supervisor||2022|
Zubin Mistry, Abortion in the Early Middle Ages, c.500-900 (Woodbridge, 2015)
Zubin Mistry, 'Review essay: Infertility in history and the history of reproduction', Gender & History 32.3 (2020), 657-75
Rosemary Elliot and Zubin Mistry, 'Introduction: Gender and reproduction', Gender & History 32.3 (2020), 509-22
Zubin Mistry, 'Ermentrude's consecration (866): Queen-making rites and biblical templates for Carolingian fertility', Early Medieval Europe 27.4 (2019), 567-88
Zubin Mistry, 'The sexual shame of the chaste: "Abortion miracles" in early medieval saints’ lives’, Gender & History. 25.3 (2013), 607-20.
Zubin Mistry, 'The body', in Elaine Pereira Farrell and Rob Meens (eds), Reading Medieval Sources: Penitential Books (Leiden, forthcoming)
Zubin Mistry, 'The womb of the Church: Uterine expulsion in the Early Middle Ages', in M. Erica Couto-Ferreira and Lorenzo Verderame (eds), Cultural Constructions of the Uterus in Pre-Modern Societies, Past and Present (Newcastle, 2018), 150-69