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Dr Conor O’Brien

Fellow in History

Associate Professor in the Early Medieval History of the British Isles and North Atlantic World

Introduction

I did my undergraduate degree in History and English at Cork in Ireland (where I was born and raised), before coming to Oxford for graduate work. I completed my doctorate on the image of the Jewish temple in the writings of the Anglo-Saxon monk Bede at Queen’s; the subsequent book from this work won the 2017 Best Book Prize from the International Society of Anglo-Saxonists. After Oxford, I held research fellowships at Churchill College, Cambridge, and the Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, Durham, as well as teaching positions at Sheffield and King’s College London. I took up my current post at Queen’s in 2020. 

Teaching

I teach early medieval history, both that of the British Isles and Europe more generally, occasionally venturing into the High Middle Ages. I also contribute to the teaching of historical methods, theories and approaches at both an undergraduate level, in College, and a postgraduate level, at the History Faculty.

Research

I am writing a book on The Rise of Christian Kingship, 400-850 (under contract with OUP), part of a wider project exploring the possibility of a religion/ secular distinction in the early Middle Ages. While pre-modern people are usually thought not to have distinguished religion from the secular, my work seeks to show how what I call ‘secularizing strategies’ were deployed in early medieval contexts. 

A second strand in my research investigates issues of community and identity in the early medieval world, particularly the importance of the idea of the Church. So far, my publications have focused on the interplay of religious and ethnic identities, but I intend to explore the importance of group identity in the Insular Easter Controversy in the future.