Prof Stephen Baxter
Clarendon Associate Professor
Barron Fellow in Medieval History, Fellow Archivist
I read history as an undergraduate at Oxford, and started the degree convinced I wanted to do nothing else but modern history, but was eventually compelled to take a medieval course, and fell under the spell of some inspirational teaching. After graduating, I spent several years working for an investment bank in the City, where I gained some exposure to the relationship between wealth and power in the late twentieth century, before returning to Oxford to work on a doctorate concerned with similar themes in the eleventh. I then spent ten happy years as Lecturer and Reader in medieval history at King’s College London, before being appointed at St Peter’s in 2014. I feel excited and humbled by the prospect of returning to the university that inspired my interest in medieval history at a college which enjoys a distinguished reputation for history.
At St Peter’s, I teach survey courses which cover the history of the British Isles from 300 to 1330, and a survey course on Medieval Christendom and its neighbours from 1000 to 1300. I also teach these courses to students at Merton College, with whom St Peter’s has an arrangement to share teaching provision. For the history faculty, I give lectures on the medieval history of the British Isles, and offer teaching and lectures for the Norman Conquest special subject. I realize that reading medieval history may not be a life-changing experience for everyone, but remain hopeful that it should inspire many, and confident that it will enrich all of those who do so!
My research is principally concerned with the England and Normandy in the long eleventh century, on both sides of the Channel and either side of 1066. My first book, The Earls of Mercia, explored how a powerful family based in the midlands negotiated the vicissitudes of English politics for nearly a century before succumbing to the Normans in the 1070s. I found this a fruitful way to approach many wider themes, such as the way noble men and women accumulated landed wealth and lordships to compete for power. My current book project aims to something similar for the Normans: it traces the fortunes of a family whose members came to prominence in Normandy in the late tenth century, played a leading role in the conquest of England, acquired a vast cross-channel lordship in the process, but eventually gambled and lost everything in civil wars.
For the past decade, I have been involved in a major research project, ‘The Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England’, which aims to identify all the people who lived in England before 1066, including all those named in Domesday Book; and I am currently involved in a project called ‘The Conqueror’s Commissioners’, which will produce a new edition, translation and introduction to Exon Domesday – a manuscript which is of crucial importance for understanding the genesis, nature and purpose of the Conqueror’s great survey.
I believe passionately that the fruits of research should be shared with wide audiences whenever possible, and have been fortunate to secure opportunities to write and present television documentaries for the BBC 2 (on Domesday Book) and BBC 4 (on Medieval Children), and to make contributions to radio programmes including BBC Radio 3 (The Essay) and Radio 4 (In Our Time).