Alasdair Grant

PhD Student, History


Originally from East Lothian, I grew up in rural Aberdeenshire and attended school in Aberdeen. I studied at the University of St Andrews, where I graduated top of the Faculty of Arts, and subsequently at Oxford, before moving to Edinburgh in 2016. My doctoral research is funded by the AHRC.

Upon leaving school, I planned to specialise in Insular Latin. Things changed quickly upon discovering Steven Runciman's library, bequeathed to St Andrews, and a cursory reading of William Miller's 'The Latins in the Levant' was enough to move my interests—posthaste—from the early medieval West to the later medieval eastern Mediterranean. Having focused initially on the Latin literature of the Italian maritime cities and their overseas territories, I now work with sources in Greek and Arabic, and am learning Turkish.

I spent the duration of last academic year (2017-18) as a Visiting Doctoral Researcher at the Johannes Gutenburg-Universität, Mainz. In January 2020, I will move to Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, D.C., to take up a Junior Fellowship.

In my spare time, I enjoy playing the organ, writing music, and singing in and conducting choirs.


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MA (Hons.), First Class, Latin and Mediaeval History, University of St Andrews, 2015

MSt, with Distinction, Late Antique and Byzantine Studies, Corpus Christi College, Oxford University, 2016

Undergraduate teaching

Latin 1B (University of Edinburgh, spring 2017)

Islamic History B: From the Crusades to the ‘Gunpowder Empires’ (University of Edinburgh, spring 2019)

MH2002: Introduction to Middle Eastern History (University of St Andrews, spring 2019)

Postgraduate teaching

Elementary Latin (PG) 2 (University of Edinburgh, spring 2017)

Research summary

  • Later Medieval Mediterranean
  • Cross-cultural interaction
  • Slavery and captivity
  • Intelligence and communication of information
  • Textual criticism

Current research interests

My PhD thesis is a study of captives as interlocutors between the various cultures of the later Byzantine world (c.1280-1453). I am jointly supervised by Professor Niels Gaul (Edinburgh), Dr Dimitri Kastritsis (St Andrews), and Dr Mike Carr (Edinburgh). Last academic year (2017-18), I worked under Professor Johannes Pahlitzsch at the Johannes Gutenburg-Universität, Mainz. My thesis work has led me to encounter a number of tangentially related but interesting texts, mostly letters, often partly or wholly unedited, which I am in the process of publishing in a number of articles. My study of a letter associated with the early stages of the Mongol invasions of the Middle East was published in the journal Traditio in 2018, while my investigation of an encyclical from the time of the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453 is currently under review for an edited volume with Brill. I am presently writing a study of a piece of crusading propaganda associated with fifteenth-century Cyprus, and (slowly) editing the Arabic translation of the tales of Paul of Monembasia.

Past research interests

Alongside my doctoral research, I remain keenly interested in the seismic changes that engulfed the Mediterranean in the later eleventh century. I have worked on the Italian maritime cities and their impact on the origins and outcomes of the First Crusade: complementing my article in the EHR on holy war in eleventh-century Pisa, a piece will be published in an edited volume with Brill in mid-2019 that addresses Venice's contribution to the First Crusade and its relationship with the expedition force's removal of relics of St Nicholas from Myra. I have also recently reviewed an important new edition of the twelfth-century Pisan 'Liber Maiorichinus' for the EHR, also forthcoming.

Knowledge exchange



Reception, Appropriation, and Innovation: Byzantium between the Christian and Islamic Worlds: Second Annual Edinburgh International Graduate Byzantine Conference, University of Edinburgh, 30 November-1 December 2018 (organizing committee member)

Byzantium Compared: First International Graduate Conference in Byzantine Studies, University of Edinburgh, 22-23 September 2017 (co-organized with Elif Demirtiken)

Papers delivered

2019 (April): Crossing Boundaries? Trade and Connections on the Medieval Mediterranean, Woolf Institute and St John’s College, Cambridge: ‘Merchants as Agents in the Levantine Captive Trade, c.1290-1430’

2018 (October): Medieval Unfreedoms: Slavery, Servitude, and Trafficking in Humans before the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, Binghamton University, New York: ‘Mapping the Trade in Greek Captives, c.1300-1450: Actors, Nodes, and Networks’

2018 (July): 5. Byzantinisches Doktorandenkolloquium Köln — Mainz — Münster, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität, Mainz: ‘Quod est iniquum: Orthodoxe Christen in lateinischer Gefangenschaft’

2018 (April): Maison Française d’Oxford Colloquium, New Bodies of Evidence: Corporality in Byzantine Culture: ‘The Captive Body in Byzantium: A Late Byzantine Language of Manumission (read in absentia)

2018 (April): 51st Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies, University of Edinburgh: ‘Inter-Confessional Captivity and Clerical Intercession in the Late Byzantine World’ (communication)

2018 (Feb): Oxford University Byzantine Society Graduate Conference: ‘Clergy and Captives in Byzantium beyond Byzantium: Agents of an Imperial Space? c.1280-1450’

2017 (May): University of Leeds Graduate Conference in Medieval Mediterranean History: ‘The Mongol Invasions between Epistolography and Prophecy: The Case of the Letter “ad flagellum”’

2017 (March): Harvard Graduate Conference on International History: ‘Aichmalosia: Captivity, Ransom, and Letter Writing in Byzantium and its Neighbours, c.1204-1453’

2017 (Feb): Oxford University Byzantine Society Graduate Conference: ‘Aichmalosia: Coercion, Detention and the Travelling Plea between Byzantium and its Neighbours, c.1204-1453’

2016 (June): University of Birmingham Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies, Graduate Colloquium: ‘When is a Pirate not a Pirate? Maritime Marginalia in the Middle Versus Late Byzantine Sphere’

2016 (Feb): Oxford University Byzantine Society Graduate Conference: ‘Byzantium’s Ashes and the Bones of St Nicholas: Two Translations as Turning Points’

Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles:

'The Mongol Invasions between Epistolography and Prophecy: The Case of the Letter “Ad flagellum”, c.1235/6-1338', Traditio 73 (2018), pp. 117-177 []

'Pisan Perspectives: The "Carmen in victoriam" and Holy War, c.1000-1150', The English Historical Review, cxxxi, no. 552 (2016), pp. 983-1009 [] []


Peer-Reviewed Book Chapter:

'Byzantium’s Ashes and the Bones of St Nicholas: Two Translations as Turning Points', in M. Kinloch & A. MacFarlane, Trends and Turning-Points: Constructing the Late Antique and Byzantine World (Leiden, 2019) []


Book Review:

'Enrico Pisano: Liber Maiorichinus de gestis Pisanorum illustribus', ed., with introduction, Giuseppe Scalia, commentary Alberto Bartola, tr. Marco Guardo, in The English Historical Review (advance access: issue not yet assigned) []


Guest Blog Post:

Conference Report: Crossing Boundaries? Trade & Connections on the Medieval Mediterranean []