The Chinese University of Hong Kong Department of History Department of History
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BA (St John’s College, University of Oxford); MA (Queen’s University, Canada); Ph.D. (University of California, Berkeley)
Assistant Professor, Department of History, CUHK

Room 123, 1/F, Fung King Hey Building, CUHK, Shatin, N.T., Hong Kong
(852) 3943 1531

James Morton is a historian of medieval Europe with a focus on the Byzantine Empire and its place in the Mediterranean world. His research investigates the relationship between emerging legal systems and the development of religious and cultural identity in pre-modern societies, most notably in the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches. His first monograph, Byzantine Religious Law in Medieval Italy, was recently published in Oxford University Press’ Oxford Studies in Byzantium series.

Prof. Morton received a B.A. in Classics at the University of Oxford (St John’s College) in 2009, before turning his attention to the medieval era with an M.A. in Byzantine History at Queen’s University in Canada in 2011. He completed his Ph.D. in Byzantine and Medieval History at the University of California, Berkeley in 2018. During his Ph.D., he travelled widely in Italy, Greece, Germany, and Russia to study primary source materials for his dissertation, which served as the basis for his first book. He has published aspects of his work in journals such as Dumbarton Oaks Papers and Speculum.

Before joining CUHK, Prof. Morton held posts as a Junior Fellow in Byzantine Studies at Dumbarton Oaks (Harvard University) in Washington D.C. (2016–2017) and as a Rome Award holder at the British School in Rome (2018). Since coming to Hong Kong, he has received an Early Career Scholarship (2020–2023) and a General Research Fund award (2023–2025) from the Hong Kong Research Grants Council for the project ‘Law and Orthodoxy: Legal Scholarship in the Byzantine Church c. 1050–1204’. This examines the systematisation and professionalization of religious canon law in the Byzantine Empire between the mid-eleventh and early-thirteenth centuries, seeking to understand how these factors helped to reinforce a distinctive Eastern Orthodox identity among medieval Greek Christians and divide them from Roman Catholic Christians in Western Europe.

Besides his research and teaching, Prof. Morton also jointly organises the CUHK World History Seminar, now in its second year, together with Prof. Stuart McManus. He is also keen to engage with the broader public outside the academy, having appeared on the RTHK talk show The Pulse and presented at events such as the Edinburgh Byzantine Book Festival.

Research Interests
  • Medieval Europe and the Mediterranean world
  • The Byzantine Empire and its neighbours
  • Religious and cultural/ethnic identity in medieval Christianity
  • Development and interaction of pre-modern legal systems
  • Pre-modern book and manuscript culture
  • Reception of Classical Greek and Roman culture in the Middle Age
Selected Publications
  • ‘Law and Orthodoxy under the Komnenoi: The Appendix to Alexios Aristenos’ Canonical Commentary’. Dumbarton Oaks Papers 76 (2022): 205–21.
  • ‘Review: The Conquered: Byzantium and America on the Cusp of Modernity, Eleni Kefala (2020)’. Journal of Greek Media and Culture 1 (2022): 101–4.
  • Byzantine Religious Law in Medieval Italy. Oxford Studies in Byzantium. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021.
  • ‘A Byzantine Canon Law Scholar in Norman Sicily: Revisiting Neilos Doxapatres’ Order of the Patriarchal Thrones’. Speculum 3 (2017): 724–54.
  • ‘Latin Patrons, Greek Fathers: St Bartholomew of Simeri and Byzantine Monastic Reform in Norman Italy, 11th–12th Centuries’. Allegorica 29 (2013): 20–35.
  • ‘Polyaenus in Context: The Strategica and Greek Identity in the Second Sophistic Age’. In Polyainos. Neue Studien, edited by Kai Brodersen, 108–32. Berlin: Verlag Antike (2010).
Research Projects
Year Research Project
2023–2025 Law and Orthodoxy: Legal Scholarship in the Byzantine Church c. 1050-1204
Principle Investigator, General Research Fund (GRF) by the HKSAR Research Grants Council
2020–2023 Law and Orthodoxy: Byzantine Legal Reform and Greek Religious Identity in the Crusading Era (c.1000-1260)
Principle Investigator, Early Career Scheme (ECS) by the HKSAR Research Grants Council
2018 Byzantine Law and Religious Culture in Medieval Italy: Understanding the Italo-Greek Nomocanons (10th-14th Centuries)
Post-Doctoral Fellow, British School at Rome, Rome Award, 2018
Awards and Honors
  • Outstanding Teaching Award, CUHK Faculty of Arts (2020, 2021)
  • 2nd Prize, Future of Manuscript Studies (FuMaSt), 1st Annual Contest, Università degli Studi di Cassino (2019)
  • John Doran Prize, Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, St Louis University MO (2013)
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