Dr Jonathan Jarrett

Dr Jonathan Jarrett


I read History at Cambridge as an undergraduate, and stayed there to do an M.Phil. in Medieval History (in which, oddly as it now seems, I worked mainly on the Picts) and then took one of my lesser topics of study, the area that is now Catalonia under the Frankish kings, to Birkbeck, University of London (as it now is) to study as a doctoral topic.

Thereafter I worked in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, for five years while teaching here and there in the University of London, moving on to become a Career Development Fellow at the Queen’s College Oxford, a Lecturer in Medieval History at the University of Birmingham and then Interim Curator of Coins at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts.

This has all served to broaden my interest in the early Middle Ages, which I see as a period of formation whose outcomes were anything but certain and demand better explanations than those we often see, in which our current nations take on a supposedly natural existence. Almost no-one living in the period was trying to create anything of the kind, so how did it get that way, and what did and could people try and do in this age in which as much is unfamiliar to us as is recognisable? These questions continue to drive my research into early medieval society.

Research interests

My work has always focused on questions of authority and power, specifically on who claimed it, how, and why they were able to get away with it, all of which necessarily also involves studying those over whom power was exercised and how they reacted.

I have come to pursue this especially in frontier areas, where the subjects of authority have more options, either in terms of membership of a polity or at least in terms of which one to belong to; the frontier thus makes especially clear what it is about a given power interest that worked in bringing people under its sway.

This kind of question about low-level response to authority requires access to levels of society below the elites, which leads me to focus most of all on low-level high-volume sources like charters (documents of rights, usually recording land transactions) and coinage, which in turn require the kind of processing that can really only be done by computer. As a result I can be found loading people’s names into a database or cataloguing coins (or even examining them by X-ray—I had a project funded by the Royal Numismatic Society to do this) as doing more conventional textual analysis.

My main area of expertise remains the medieval Iberian peninsula, and especially Catalonia, in the ninth to eleventh centuries, but I have picked up subsidiary knowledge of Anglo-Saxon England, Pictish Scotland, Carolingian Europe and the early and middle Byzantine Empire from teaching or comparative study. In recent years I have become convinced that there are theories about the operation of authority, not just in the Middle Ages but in non-industrial societies much more widely, to be drawn from using medieval evidence in intensive comparison, and most of my current work is focused on this and working with a network of like-minded scholars with whom to compare results.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • M. A. (Cantab)
  • Ph.D. (Lond.)
  • FRHistS
  • FHEA

Student education

I offer teaching at all undergraduate levels, especially on the late antique period; I teach around AD 100 to 1100, but with the weight firmly towards the early end of that span. I also offer teaching at MA level as part of my contribution to the Institute for Medieval Studies.

I have received commendations for my teaching in most of the years I have been at Leeds so far.

Research groups and institutes

  • Empires and Aftermath
  • Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>