James Kawalek

James Kawalek

Department of History
Doctoral researcher

Contact details

PhD title: Historical Writing and Europeanisation in Twelfth-Century Compostela   
SupervisorDr William Purkis and Prof Aengus Ward
PhD History


  • BA (hons) Religions and Theology, First Class- University of Manchester
  • MA Medieval Studies, Distinction- University of Manchester


I graduated with a First Class in BA (hons) Religions and Theology from the University of Manchester in 2014. The following year, having won the Towneley Family John Rylands Research Institute Masters Studentship, I undertook a Ma in Medieval Studies, for which I received a Distinction. My MA dissertation looked at the convergence of apocalyptic themes and anti-Islamic polemic in early Medieval Christian Iberian texts.

For the next few years I worked in Education, first as a SEN TA at Chapel-en-le-Frith High School in the Peak District before teaching English at a Yonsei University academy in Seoul, South Korea. In summer 2018 I returned to England to begin my M3C-funded PhD in historical writing and Europeanisation in the Historia Compostelana.


My project seeks to analyse the Historia Compostelana, a twelfth-century ‘house history’ from the Cathedral of Compostela, as a piece of historical writing and re-assess medieval Spain’s relationship with contemporary Latin Europe. Produced during a time of European cultural expansion, the HC reflects a key moment in the Europeanisation of Spain. Compostela, at the edge of Europe, embraced this change and became a major European centre for art and pilgrimage. The HC, a laudatory account of Diego Gelmírez’s (Compostela’s reforming bishop) life and deeds, is innovative in form and detailed in content; it offers a precious first-hand account of the city’s transformation. Key questions include: What can the HC, in form and content, tell us about the changes in twelfth-century Compostela and its emerging links with Europe? To what extent was twelfth-century Spain a cultural outlier with respect to the rest of Latin Europe? The project will begin by analysing the HC as a piece of historical writing and then, by comparing it with contemporary histories, will assess its relationship with Latin Europe. As the intention of this study is to illuminate the HC’s cultural contexts, a focus on matters such as: genre, literary style, and social and political viewpoints will be maintained.