Spotlight on Simon MacLean
April 26, 2013 Leave a comment
After years at school spent studying the Nazis, Victorian reform acts and the origins of the First World War (several times each), Dr Simon MacLean went to the University of Glasgow intending to do more of the same. While there he realised there was more to pre-modern Europe than poor sanitation and book-burning, and he was inspired to pursue postgraduate research on Western Europe in the era of the Carolingian Empire (8th and 9th centuries). This led to a PhD at King’s College London on the reign of the last Carolingian emperor Charles III ‘the Fat’ (d. 888), supervised by Professor Janet Nelson. Simon then spent two years as a Research Fellow in Cambridge turning his thesis into a book, snappily entitled Kingship and Politics in the Late Ninth Century: Charles the Fat and the End of the Carolingian Empire (Cambridge UP, 2003). The book’s essential argument is that Charles III does not quite live down to the reputation bestowed upon him by posterity, encapsulated by the declamation of one very eminent Victorian historian that he was ‘dangerous and unmanageable; a diseased, idiotic raving madman … who was probably put out of the way for his own good’.
Since coming to St Andrews in 2002 Simon has continued to research the last years of the Carolingian Empire in the ninth century and its fragmentation into a series of successor kingdoms in the tenth – a key moment in the process by which the Late Antique world of great empires was transformed into the more immediately recognisable map of medieval European kingdoms. He has published several articles on politics and history-writing in the ninth and tenth centuries, as well as two further books: History and Politics in Late Carolingian and Ottonian Europe: the Chronicle of Regino of Prüm and Adalbert of Magdeburg (Manchester UP, 2009), a translation and study of one of the most important chronicles of the period, and The Carolingian World (Cambridge UP, 2011), co-authored with Marios Costambeys and Matthew Innes. In 2008 he was lucky enough to receive a Philip Leverhulme Prize for some of this research. Since then he has been working on a book about the prominent role played by queens in tenth-century European politics.
Simon teaches at all levels of the School’s provision and currently offers honours courses entitled: The Rise and Fall of the Carolingian Empire; Queens and Queenship in the Early Middle Ages; and A Century of Iron? England and Germany in the Tenth Century. For more information see his staff page on the School of History website.