Dr Chris Callow BA, PhD (Birmingham)

Dr Chris Callow

Department of History
Senior Lecturer in Medieval History

Contact details

Arts Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

My teaching and research centre on the Vikings, the history and archaeology of medieval Iceland, and Old Norse literature. Some of these interests show themselves in my book, Landscape, Tradition and Power in Medieval Iceland (2020). I am interested in how communities and individuals recall and write about the past, in the case of medieval texts like Sagas of Icelanders but also more generally. How gender shapes people’s lived experiences, and how they think about the past, also forms part of my research and teaching.


I have been in my current post since 2005. Before that I held temporary positions at Birmingham, Birkbeck College and UCL. My major administrative role at the moment is as the academic lead for Joint Honours programmes across the College of Arts and Law, a role I enjoy, having taken an interdisciplinary BA degree at Birmingham myself.

In 2013 I held a Snorri Sturluson Icelandic Fellowship at Stofnun Árna Magnússonar in Iceland.

I have been a member of the Council of the Viking Society for Northern Research (2009-12). I was a founder member of Birmingham’s medieval studies research centre, Centre for the Study of the Middle Ages (CeSMA).



First year

  • Discovering the Middle Ages
  • Living in the Middle Ages
  • Practising History (e.g. usually on medieval outlawry, including Robin Hood)
  • Old Norse (as part of the MA in Medieval Studies)

Second year

  • Option: Society in the Viking World
  • Group Research: Sex and the City: Women’s lives in Heian Japan
  • Research Methods (medieval topics)
  • Public History

Third year

  • Game without Thrones (Special Subject on medieval Iceland)


  • Approaches to Medieval Studies

Postgraduate supervision

I would welcome research students on a wide range of issues in the history and archaeology of early medieval western Europe, especially the Vikings and medieval Iceland and Scandinavia. Research proposals on social, cultural or economic history within particular medieval regions or communities would also be possible. I have published on the writing of history in the middle ages and would be interested in supervising similar topics on medieval narratives.

Current doctoral research students and their topics:
- Harriet Clarke, Kingship in medieval Norway (co-supervised with Prof Judith Jesch)
- Agni Papamichael, Icelandic perceptions of Byzantium (co-supervised with Prof Judith Jesch)
- Steve Walker, Early medieval Cumbria (co-supervised with Dr John Baker)
- Julie Kilbey, Childhood in Anglo-Saxon England (co-supervised with Dr Kate Sykes)
- David Marsh, The Trade in Roman Glass (co-supervised with Dr Roger White)

- Emma Thompson, Gender and burial practice in Viking Age Scandinavia (co-supervised with Dr Paul Garwood)

Past PhD students and subjects:
- Bernadette McCooey, Pre-industrial farming practices in Iceland
- Ryder Patzuk-Russell, Education in medieval Iceland
- Emma Southon, The early medieval family

Find out more - our PhD History  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


My central research interest is society of medieval Iceland. Wider issues and aspects of this include approaches to narratives; saga literature, including Sagas of Icelanders and Sturlunga saga. My first book, Landscape, Tradition and Power in Medieval Iceland (Brill, 2020) considered these texts by examining two particular regions of Iceland against the backdrop of institutional and familial structures, and economic patterns.

My next project is a reassessment of the nature of the viking phenomenon which arises from my wider interest in using interdisciplinary approaches to the past using texts, archaeology and place-names. I am writing a monograph that seeks to assess separately the nature of the movement overseas by Scandinavians in the ninth and tenth centuries and the way it was perceived in later centuries. My contention is that, still, we allow later textual evidence to govern our perceptions of the Viking Age.

In the past I was a member of the AHRC-funded Viking Identities Network (2006-9) led by Prof. Judith Jesch (School of English, University of Nottingham) and worked on aspects of gender and the life course.

Other activities

I am a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. I serve on the advisory board for the journal Nottingham Medieval Studies. For several years, until 2020, I was an AHRC Peer Review College member and have served as an anonymous reviewer for various other national research councils. 

I have worked on a number of initiatives that have communicated academic research to the public or connected outside organisations with the academic community including:

  • acting as co-organiser of the Midlands Viking Symposium since its inception. This is an annual spring conference run jointly with Leicester and Nottingham universities presenting the latest academic research to the public.
  • serving as a member of the Friends of Birmingham Archives and Heritage (FOBAH) committee for a number of years from its inception.
  • working as part of the Rescue!History network including organising two public conferences on man-made climate change. ‘An End to History?’ was a public conference which acted as a forum for academics and activists met to discuss action on man-made climate change in 2008. In contributed an article to the resulting edited volume, History at the End of the World? (2010). In 2014 we held a second conference at the Birmingham and Midland Institute, ‘History and Climate change: What have we learnt?’


Recent publications


Callow, C 2020, Landscape, Tradition and Power in Medieval Iceland: Dalir and the Eyjafjörður region c.870-c.1265. The Northern World, vol. 80, Brill, Leiden. https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004331600


Callow, C & Evans, C 2016, 'The mystery of plague in medieval Iceland', Journal of Medieval History, vol. 42, no. 2, pp. 254-84. https://doi.org/10.1080/03044181.2016.1149503

Callow, C 2012, 'Putting women in their place? Gender and landscape in Iceland's national medieval colonisation narrative.', Viking and Medieval Scandinavia, vol. 07/2011, no. 7, pp. 7-28. https://doi.org/10.1484/J.VMS.1.102612

Callow, C & Mouhot, J 2008, 'A Climatic warning from history', BBC History, vol. 9, no. 7, pp. 42 (1 page article).

Callow, C 2006, 'First steps towards an archaeology of children in Iceland', Archaeologia Islandica, vol. 5, pp. 55-74.


Callow, C 2017, Dating and Origins. in Á Jakobsson & S Jakobsson (eds), The Routledge Research Companion to the Medieval Icelandic Sagas. Ashgate.

Callow, C & Harlow, M 2012, 'Left over Romans: life course in the Late Antique West'. in M Harlow & L Larsson Loven (eds), Families in the Imperial and Late Antique World. Continuum.

Callow, C 2010, Iceland's medieval coastal market places: Dögurðarnes in its economic, social and political context. in J Brendalsmo, T Gansum & F-E Eliassen (eds), Strandsteder, utvikinglingssteder og Småbyer i vikingtid, middelalder og tidlig nytid (ca.800-ca.1800). Oslo, pp. 213-229.

Callow, C, Levene, M, Johnson, R & Roberts, P 2010, People, climate and landscape in medieval Iceland and beyond? in History at the End of the World? History, Climate and the Possibility of Closure.

Callow, C 2009, Iceland's medieval costal market places: Dogurdarnes in its economic, social and political context. in J Brendalsmo, F-E Eliassen & T Gansum (eds), Den urbane underskog: Strandsteder, utvikslingssteder og smabyer I vikingtid, middelalder og tidlig nytid. Novus.

Callow, C, Davies, W, Halsall, G & Reynolds, A 2006, Geography, Communities and Socio-Political Organization in Medieval Northern Iceland. in W Davies, G Halsall & A Reynolds (eds), People and Space in the Middle Ages, 300-1300. Studies in the Early Middle Ages, Brepols Publishers. https://doi.org/10.1484/M.SEM-EB.6.09070802050003050105020607

Book/Film/Article review

Callow, C 2022, 'Violence and Risk in Medieval Iceland. This Spattered Isle. By OrenFalk. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2021. xiii + 358 pp. £75. ISBN 978 0 19 886604 6.', Early Medieval Europe. https://doi.org/10.1111/emed.12596

Callow, C 2021, 'Julio Escalona, Orri Vésteinsson and Stuart Brookes (Eds.): Polity and Neighbourhood in Early Medieval Europe. Turnhout, Brepols, 2019, XVIII + 430 pp.', Historia Agraria, vol. 83, pp. 261-266. https://doi.org/10.26882/histagrar.083r09b

Callow, C 2010, 'Review of Oral Art Forms and their Passage into Writing. Edited by Else Mundal and Jonas Wellendrof', Early Medieval Europe, vol. 18, no. 4, pp. 480-482.

Callow, C 2008, 'Review of West Over Sea. Studies in Scandinavian Sea-Borne Expansion and Settlement Before 1300. A Festschrift in Honour of Dr Barbara E. Crawford. Edited by Beverley Ballin Smith, Simon Taylor and Gareth Williams. The Northern World 31. Brill. Leiden, 2007. ISBN 978 90 04 15893 1. xxix + 581 pp. 68 illustrations', Saga-Book of the Viking Society, vol. XXXII, pp. 110-111.

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