Prof Phil Booth
Research Fellow in Theology and Religion, and History
A.G. Leventis Associate Professor of Eastern Christianity
I am the A.G. Leventis Associate Professor of Eastern Christianity.
I did my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at Cambridge, where I started life as a Classicist and ended up as a medievalist.
As an undergraduate, I specialised in ancient history, but was at the same time exposed to the (to my mind much more exciting) world of late antiquity, that is, the period from the third to seventh centuries AD. I became increasingly interested in the rich cultures of eastern Christianity which crystallised in that period, not only in Greek but in a range of emergent languages (Syriac, Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopic).
This soon became the focus of my postgraduate research. After completing a doctorate in Cambridge in 2008, I then held post-doctoral fellowships in both Oxford and Cambridge, before returning in 2012 to a lectureship in Oxford, shared between the Faculty of History and the Faculty of Theology and Religion. I was delighted to join St Peter's in 2017.
At undergraduate level I teach for both the Faculty of History and the Faculty of Theology and Religion, and my teaching ranges from the third to fifteenth centuries. For History I lecture and give tutorials for a survey course on the period c.300-c.900 AD, as well as courses on the Near East in the Age of Justinian and Muhammad, Byzantium in the Age of Constantine Porphyrogenitus (913-959), General History I (285-476), and General History II (476-750). For Theology and Religion I teach courses on Jesus through the Centuries, the Early Church (to 451), and the Byzantine Church (1000-1453). At postgraduate level I am heavily involved in the Master's programme in Late Antique and Byzantine History for the Faculty of History, but also have postgraduate students in Theology and Religion, Oriental Studies, and Classics.
I am interested above all in the transition from the ancient (Roman-Persian) to the medieval (Byzantine-Islamic) worlds within the Near and Middle East, and in particular in the experiences of Christian communities during that process. My first book, Crisis of Empire (University of California Press 2013), followed the careers of a group of dissident Palestinian monks who traversed the eastern Mediterranean in the first half of the seventh century, and reconnected the shifting political and theological ideas within their various texts to the cultural and geopolitical crises brought about by the so-called 'Last Great War of Antiquity' (between the Romans and Persians) and the subsequent rise of Islam. My new book also looks to reconnect religious narratives to wider historical contexts. Under the provisional title Egypt at the Dawn of Islam (Princeton University Press, forthcoming), it explores the formation of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt in the period from the sixth to ninth centuries, during the collapse of the ancient world order and the formation of the Islamic caliphate. Ultimately I plan to write a book, on a much broader canvas, on the formation of eastern Christendom in the period c.300-c.1000 AD.