Christopher John Wickham
18 May 1950
|Alma mater||Keble College, Oxford|
Christopher John "Chris" Wickham,(born 18 May 1950) is a British historian and academic. From 2005 to 2016, he was Chichele Professor of Medieval History at the University of Oxford and Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford: he is now emeritus professor. He had previously taught at the University of Birmingham from 1977, rising to be Professor of Early Medieval History from 1997 to 2005.
Wickham was born on 18 May 1950. He was educated at Millfield, a public school in Street, Somerset, England. From 1968 to 1975, he studied at Keble College, Oxford. He graduated from the University of Oxford with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree. He then remained to undertake postgraduate research and completed his Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) degree in 1975 with a thesis entitled Economy and society in 8th century northern Tuscany.
Wickham spent nearly thirty years of his career at the University of Birmingham. He was a Lecturer from 1977 to and 1987 and a Senior Lecturer from 1987 to 1989. He was promoted to Reader in 1989, and made Professor of Medieval History in 1993.
In 2005, he was appointed Chichele Professor of Medieval History in the University of Oxford and Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. From 2009 to 2012, he also served as chair of the Faculty of History. From September 2015 to the end of the academic year, he was additionally Head of the Humanities Division of the University of Oxford. He retired at the end of the 2015/2016 academic year, in line with Oxford's mandatory retirement policy. Upon retirement, Wickham was appointed Professor of Medieval History on a part-time basis at the University of Birmingham. He was appointed Director of the British School at Rome on 5 November 2020, and held the post until July 2021.
From June 2009 to July 2011, Wickham served as a company director of the Past and Present Society. On 6 July 2013, Wickham was appointed a company director of the Past and Present Society: he retains this position as of 2019.
His main area of research is Medieval Italy – and more specifically Tuscany and central Italy – from the end of the Roman empire through to about 1300. His emphasis has largely been social and economic, though he has undertaken study into the legal and political history of the area as well. More generally Wickham has worked under a modified Marxist framework on how European society changed from late antiquity and the early Middle Ages, and has pioneered comparative socio-economic analysis in this period.
In 2005 his work Framing the Early Middle Ages was published, which claims to be the first synthesis of early medieval European history since the 1920s. It is exceptional for its use of hitherto unincorporated evidence from both documentary and archaeological sources, as well as its bold use of comparative methods and rejection of national narratives. It has been awarded prizes, including the Wolfson History Prize in 2005, the Deutscher Memorial Prize in 2006 and the American Historical Association awarded its James Henry Breasted Prize in January 2007. He has edited Marxist History Writing for the Twenty-First Century, a volume that sees various academics discuss the status and profile of Marxist historiography, and has written a general history of early medieval Europe, published by Penguin, which examines cultural, religious and intellectual developments of the period not covered in his previous socio-economic study.
In 1990, Wickham married Leslie Brubaker, a Byzantine scholar.
He is a member of the Labour Party, and was previously a member of the Democratici di Sinistra (Democrats of the Left).
In 1998, Wickham was elected a Fellow of the British Academy (FBA). In 2006, he was awarded the Wolfson History Prize for his book Framing the Early Middle Ages: Europe and the Mediterranean 400–800. In 2014, he was awarded the Serena Medal by the British Academy "in recognition of his reputation as a medieval historian of exceptional distinction who has transformed our understanding of the early medieval Italian world.".