Professor Naomi Standen

 

Professor of Medieval History

Department of History

standen

Contact details

Telephone +44 (0)121 414 6881

Fax +44 (0)121 414

Email n.standen@bham.ac.uk

Arts Building
University of Birmingham
Edgbaston
Birmingham
B15 2TT
UK

About

I am a medieval historian who works on northern Eurasia in global contexts, with a primary focus on regions that lie within what is now China, North Korea and Mongolia. I work with texts, with archaeologists and with medievalists studying all parts of the globe, and have been particularly interested in borders, frontiers and borderlands and the people who live in and around such places.

At present my chief concerns are the social and material contexts for political action at all levels, and the question of how to take global approaches to the history of the period c. 300-1500. My current projects embrace historical analysis and archaeological fieldwork on urban sites in Inner Mongolia, and a research network on ‘Defining the Global Middle Ages’. I am writing a global history of eastern Eurasia between the 7th and the 14th centuries.

Since I am both a historian and an Area Studies specialist, I have always felt that China people needed to pay more attention to History and History people needed to pay more attention to China. My work uses the methods and approaches of the early medievalist, while at the same time I strive for greater recognition for China within the discipline of history. These inclinations are currently finding their natural outlet in my contribution to efforts to globalise medieval studies.

I am also active in the field of Chinese studies in the UK and abroad, where I have worked for many years to foster the development of pathways into the study of China and the necessary acquisition of Chinese language that do not rely on taking an undergraduate degree in Chinese, and to emphasise the importance of strong disciplinary training alongside language acquisition.

Qualifications

  • BA History (London Queen Mary)
  • PhD East Asian Studies (Durham)

Biography

I come from a shopkeeping background and was the first in my family to go to university. I am a beneficiary of state-funded higher education, without which I would have had to leave university and would not have done a doctorate.

My BA is in early medieval European history, but I got interested in China along the way, and studied modern and classical Chinese in Taiwan in order to do my PhD. 

I held a Junior Research Fellowship at St John’s College, Oxford, where I had my first child, then worked for two years at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, a small, public, liberal arts college, which gave me a crash course in teaching and in engaged scholarship, and where I had my second child

In 2000 I participated in a 6-month research group at the Institute for Advanced Study at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, before returning to the UK to take up a lectureship in Chinese history at Newcastle. There I helped to embed World History and to develop East Asian history within the History programme, and to build East Asian Studies across the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. I became senior lecturer in 2007.

I came to Birmingham as Professor of Medieval History in 2011, the first non-Europeanist to be appointed to a post of this title (though not the first to hold one).

Teaching

Undergraduate

First year

  • Discovering the Middle Ages (selected lectures)
  • Living in the Medieval World (selected lectures)

Second year

Third year

  • The Mongols and China (special subject)
  • Dissertations: I am happy to supervise dissertations on well founded topics within or related to my research or teaching interests (including, if needed, concerning other parts of the world) and I am willing to extend my range chronologically for topics dealing with Eastern Eurasia (including Southeast Asia).

Postgraduate

  • Approaches to Medieval Studies (selected seminars)
  • Research Skills in Medieval Studies (selected seminars)
  • Global Histories, Comparisons and Connections (selected seminars)
  • Making Sense of the World: Themes in Global History (selected seminars)
  • Conquest, Colonisation and Identity: Eurasian Frontiers in Texts and Material Culture
  • Across the Divide: China and its Neighbours in Texts and Material Culture

Previously taught

Postgraduate supervision

  • XIE Chen, Dividing the Tang legacy: Song dynasty rewritings of post-Tang identities, College of Arts and Law Doctoral Scholarship and Neville Chamberlain Postgraduate Scholarship, Sept 2015-
  • XUE Chen, Dividing the Tang legacy: Song dynasty rewritings of post-Tang identities, College of Arts and Law Doctoral Scholarship (Sept 2015-)
  • ZHENG Hongxiang, The Longyou regional military, China Scholarship Council visiting student from Lanzhou University, Gansu, PRC (2015-16)
  • Lance PURSEY, North of a southern border: placing the city of Yanjing in northern Asia, project student on AHRC Research Grant: Understanding cities in the premodern history of Northeast China, c. 200-1200 (Sept 2015-)   
  • Jonathan DUGDALE, An entangled history of Liao architecture, AHRC Doctoral Scholarship (Sept 2013-)
  • Geoffrey HUMBLE, Narrative constructions of political legitimacy and statehood in the Yuánshǐ: the reign of Ögödei Qa’an (1229-1241), AHRC Doctoral Scholarship (Sept 2012-)
  • SHI Binbin, ‘Song border trade with their northern neighbours’, China Scholarship Council visitor from Zhengzhou University, Henan, PRC (Spring term 2012)

Research

My research started from a fascination with the ground-level functioning of borderlands, especially in the Liao (907-1125), and from there has expanded in both time and space to the Silk Roads and the neighbours of the Liao on all sides – although I am no longer at ease with the concept of borders.

My goal is to learn more about the everyday interactions, negotiations, conflicts and compromises of ‘borderland’ regions: to understand the choices that people living in these places made, and the frameworks, motivations and imperatives that shaped those decisions. My work seeks more complex understandings of ‘China’, its peoples and its neighbours, which opens up these groupings and their relationships to rigorous comparative analysis. 

The evolution of these interests has led me to collaboration with archaeologists and to investigations of how to write histories of the ‘global Middle Ages’, both of which cross-fertilise with my current writing project, which is a rethink of eastern Eurasian geography and history c. 600-1350 that aims to relocate religious, political and practice communities in their global contexts.

Other activities

Publications

Monographs 

Edited volumes

Selected articles and book chapters

Other 

Expertise

China and Inner Asia in the premodern period, particularly including border, frontier and boundary issues; nomad-sedentary interactions; the nature of sources of information including historical texts and material-culture, archaeological evidence, everyday life, museums, and present-day uses of premodern history; border-crossers in the Liao dynasty (907-1125);  the Five Dynasties period in Chinese history (907-960) and China in a wider Eurasian context (c. 600-1400);  loyalty, networks, political structures and historiography;  the Silk Roads, the Mongols and the Liao; archaeological and other fieldwork in NE China; co-PI of an AHRC-funded scholarly network called "Defining the Global Middle Ages", which brings together premodernists specialising in Europe, the Byzantine world, West, South and East Asia, Africa and the Americas.

Expertise

China and Inner Asia in the premodern period, particularly including border, frontier and boundary issues; nomad-sedentary interactions; the nature of sources of information including historical texts and material-culture, archaeological evidence, everyday life, museums, and present-day uses of premodern history; border-crossers in the Liao dynasty (907-1125);  the Five Dynasties period in Chinese history (907-960) and China in a wider Eurasian context (c. 600-1400);  loyalty, networks, political structures and historiography;  the Silk Roads, the Mongols and the Liao; archaeological and other fieldwork in NE China; co-PI of an AHRC-funded scholarly network called "Defining the Global Middle Ages", which brings together premodernists specialising in Europe, the Byzantine world, West, South and East Asia, Africa and the Americas.

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