I am an FWO Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of History at the University of Ghent. From 2019-21, I was a BOF Postdoctoral Research Fellow.
I work on the political history of the medieval North Caucasus and West Eurasia, focussing on transregional connection and slavery. This region is a quintessential yet under-researched example of a pre-modern borderland, with control of its strategic routes, resources and manpower contested by the Sassanian, Byzantine, Abbasid, Khazar, Mongol and Russian Empires. My work examines how the indigenous peoples of the Central and Western North Caucasus organised themselves politically to resist and exploit this situation.
My new research project 'Strangled By Connection: The Northwest Caucasus and the Making of Global Slavery, 1261-1475', examines the medieval Caucasian slave trade in comparative perspective. The importance of this slave trade has long been recognised, providing the ruling elite of the Egyptian Mamluk sultanate from 1382 onwards, and a steady supply of household and productive slaves to the Italian States. However, we know very little about the social background of these enslaved people, why they were enslaved, and particularly why the indigenous Northwest Caucasian elite co-operated in their enslavement and sale. This project re-examines our written evidence for this slave trade in the light of Northwest Caucasian archaeological evidence and ethnography, which previously has been largely confined to specialist Russophone journals. This will therefore allow us a fuller picture of the social world from which these enslaved people were forcibly extracted. As a consequence, we will be able to compare their origins and experiences with those of enslaved and dependent people from other time periods and regions, particularly West Africa and Southeast Asia.
For the past two years, I have been working on a book manuscript on the functioning of the North Caucasian Kingdom of Alania in the 10th-12th centuries CE. This was the most powerful political entity in the medieval North Caucasus; however, its actual functioning is unclear, given that it possessed few of the 'conventional' trappings of the state, such as coinage, a written administration, or written history. My work locates this kingdom in the context of wider transregional connections, the control of which allowed its rulers to rise to a level of power unprecedented in North Caucasian history to that point.
I gained my PhD, 'Political Authority in North Caucasian Alania, 800-1300', from the School of Oriental and African Studies (2019), having previously studied at King's College London (2005-8) and the University of Leeds (2011-12). I also previously taught at Saint Xavier University and Wilbur Wright College in Chicago, USA. Along with James Baillie (University of Vienna) and Nick Evans (University of Leeds), I am a co-ordinator of the Medieval Caucasus Network: an online network bringing together specialists in the medieval Caucasian region.
Titularis, 'Research Seminar: World History' (topic: Global History of Slavery)
Co-Teacher, 'Byzantijns Geschiedenis' (in English)