This network explores the political role of ‘barons’ over a broad chronological and geographical span through the following research questions: 

  1. How did non-royal élites across Afro-Eurasia conceive and implement responsible government, whether on behalf of themselves or others, from c. 900 to c. 1350? 
  2. What points of comparison can be found between aristocratic approaches to government in Latin Christendom, the eastern Roman empire, the Abbasid caliphate, and Middle Imperial China between the transnational experiences of imperial collapses of the ninth century and destabilising plague of the fourteenth?  
  3. How did élites coming from a minority background, for example a separate cultural or religious community to the wider population, interact with their own communities, élites from the dominant group, and the governed majority?  
  4. To what extent has our understanding of medieval aristocracy been formed by teleological narratives of modern state formation? How has the exclusion of non-royal élites from such narratives shaped our present perceptions of European and non-European polities? 
  5. Is it necessary to revise our understanding of the rise of the modern state with reference to the role played by aristocracies across Afro-Eurasia?


In order to answer these questions, our network is: 

  1. Gathering diverse scholars to discuss these problems in an international and intergenerational context. These will be organised around two themes: ‘Barons and the Public Good in a Global Context’ and ‘Minority Élites and Government from a Global Context’. These themes will initially meet virtually, before combining in a three-day conference for fuller discussion in 2023. These will build upon a previous, Leverhulme-funded, pilot event, which was focused on western Europe and highlighted the need to expand this project. These workshops will provide a space for varied case studies to be examined alongside each other and foster wider historiographical comparison. 
  2. Sharing our research with the academic and specialist community. The network conference in 2023 will be followed by a strand to present our work to the International Medieval Congress in Leeds in 2024. We will also produce a peer-reviewed edited volume which will collect the contributions of the network participants into a handbook which should serve as a foundation for the establishment of this emerging subdiscipline. The conclusion to this volume, co-authored by the PI and CI, will not only draw together the themes explored by participants but will also lay out the shape of the field and propose further avenues for studying these questions. 
  3. Showcasing both the individual work of the network members and our early findings for a wider audience. This website will host resources for schoolteachers, thereby addressing and challenging the popular view of ‘barons’ and public good. In partnership with the Historical Association we will be hosting webinars for teachers, with potential for consultation on syllabus review for KS3 and beyond.