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); Ph.D. (University of California)
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 the Byzantine Empire and Medieval Europe. His research focuses on the relationship between emerging medieval legal systems and the development of religious and cultural identity in the Mediterranean world. He has recently completed his first book, Byzantine Religious Law in Medieval Italy, which is forthcoming with Oxford University Press.

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 (Canada) in 2011. He completed his Ph.D. in Byzantine and Medieval History at the University of California, Berkeley in 2018. From 2015 to 2017, he travelled widely in Italy, Greece, Germany, and Russia to study sources for his dissertation, Byzantine Canon Law and Medieval Legal Pluralism: The Southern Italian Manuscripts. He has published aspects of his work in the journals Allegorica and Speculum and was recently awarded the 2nd prize in the first annual Future of Manuscript Studies (FuMaSt) contest organised by the Università degli Studi di Cassino in Gaeta, Italy.

Prof. Morton has previously held posts as a Junior Fellow in Byzantine Studies at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C. and as a Rome Award holder at the British School in Rome. Since joining CUHK in January 2019, he has received an Early Career Scholarship from the Hong Kong Research Grants Council for a new project entitled ‘Law and Orthodoxy: Byzantine Legal Reform and Greek Religious Identity in the Crusading Era (c. 1000–1260)’. This will examine the systematisation and professionalisation of religious law in the Byzantine Empire between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries, seeking to understand how these factors helped to reinforce a distinct Eastern Orthodox identity among medieval Greek Christians that contributed to their estrangement from Roman Catholic Christians in the West.

Research Interests
  • Medieval Europe and the Mediterranean world
  • The Byzantine Empire and its neighbours
  • Religious and cultural/ethnic identity in medieval Christianity
  • The development and interaction of pre-modern legal systems
  • Pre-modern book and manuscript cultures
  • The reception of Classical Greek and Roman culture in the Middle Ages
  • Comparison between medieval Europe and China
Selected Publications
  • Byzantine Religious Law in Medieval Italy. Oxford Studies in Byzantium. Oxford University Press (forthcoming).
  • ‘The Fourth Crusade and the Greek Church of Southern Italy: Legal and Cultural Consequences.’ In Proceedings of the 51st Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies (forthcoming).
  • ‘A Byzantine Canon Law Scholar in Norman Sicily: Revisiting Neilos Doxapatres’ Order of the Patriarchal Thrones.’ Speculum 92.3 (2017): 724–754.
  • ‘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, 108–132. Berlin: Verlag Antike (2010).
Research Projects
Year Research Project
2020–2022 Law and Orthodoxy: Byzantine Legal Reform and Greek Religious Identity in the Crusading Era (c.1000-1260)
Principle Investigator, Research Grants Council, Early Career Scholarship
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
  • 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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