My name is Fraser McNair, and I’m an historian. At the moment, I am a Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Leeds, having previously been Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow at the same institution, an Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at Eberhard Karls Universität in Tübingen and a Fondation Wiener-Anspach Postdoctoral Fellow at the Université Libre de Bruxelles. My research focuses on authority and political culture – broadly, how people’s actions affected what they thought was right and vice-versa – between the final years of the Carolingian Empire at the end of the ninth century and the decades after the Norman Conquest of England at the end of the eleventh. This was a period where norms about who was a legitimate ruler – and why – were in tremendous flux, so that what was conservative in the 1030s would have been absolutely wonkybonkers even a hundred years earlier. What interests me especially about all this is how principles evolve in relation to change – at its most basic, how minds change and why.
My name is Sam Ottewill-Soulsby, and I’m a historian. Right now I’m a postdoctoral research associate employed by the ERC-funded ‘Impact of the Ancient City’ project, based in the Faculty of Classics at the University of Cambridge. As part of that project I work on the impact of classical ideas of the city on later ideas about urbanism in the Western Mediterranean. I’m also really interested in late antique and early medieval foreign policy and diplomacy. These were periods when people and polities were constantly in contact with each other and the way they overcame the challenges of both physical and cultural distance in communicating with each other offers windows into a wide range of other subjects, most notably charismatic megafauna. The most important thing for me is trying to understand people in the past on their own terms. They were very different from us, and that’s precisely why we should study them for the lessons they can teach us about the many different ways there are to be human.