Dr Matthew Hassall

Postdoctoral Affiliate

I graduated from Cambridge with a BA in History in 2017, from the University of Chicago with an MA in Classical Languages in 2018, and from Cambridge (again) with a PhD in late antique intellectual history in 2022. As an undergraduate, I became interested in (constructed) space and its relation to political thought, writing my dissertation on Domitian's building projects and their praise-poetic reception. I wrote my MA thesis on how the collective memory of the 532 Nika Insurrection in Constantinople was contested in art, architecture, and literature, especially epigraphy and panegyric. My doctoral work then focused on the dynamics of political debate in sixth-century Roman Constantinople, reimagining the city's political culture as an open and competitive intellectual space in which imperial subjects recognised their ability to exert pressure on and influence their imperial régime. In addition to preparing my first monograph, I am now developing my postdoctoral project, which will explore how Romans across the late antique world thought about and sought to change (or protect) wealth inequality. I will carry out this project as a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow at the University of Liverpool from 2024.

My doctoral thesis, Political Debate in the Age of Justinian I, analyses the tactical choices that sixth-century Roman political writers in Constantinople made to advance their agendas within the city's political culture. Using intertextual methods to bring a wide range of sources into dialogue (across traditional divisions between genres, languages, material and literary evidence, and "classical" and "Christian" subcultures), I recapture the intellectual diversity and tactical creativity of late antique political culture. Rather than living under the shadow of an emergent Byzantine autocracy, sixth-century Romans openly engaged in political debate to exert pressure on the imperial régime by mobilising its subjects' opinions and expectations.

I am broadly interested in the reconstruction of late antique cultures of debate such as this. My next project will explore how the unequal distribution of wealth in the late antique empire was debated, contested, and defended by radical and counter-radical thinkers within and beyond early Christian churches.

I also retain an interest in the comparative implications of my work. I am presently preparing my first monograph, which draws out the theoretical consequences of my doctoral thesis for the study of political discourse under other premodern autocracies. I have also co-authored, with a scholar of European law, an analysis of the mutually supportive relationship between corporate power and the constitutionalisation of the EU Internal Market, to which I contributed methodological and theoretical frameworks for the study of power developed in late antique history. In my roles at the Autism Research Centre and the Autism Centre of Excellence, I also put these frameworks to practical use by working towards the equalisation of power relations between scientific researchers into autism and their autistic subjects.

  • with J. D. Veraldi, "The Politics of the Constitutionalisation of Corporate Power in Europe," in The Research Handbook on the Politics of Constitutional Law, eds. M. Tushnet & D. Kochenov (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2023).


  • Part II, Paper 8: The Near East in the Age of Justinian and Muhammad (AD 527-700).


  • Part IA, Outline 1: Ancient and Medieval States and Societies over the First Millennium.
  • Part I, Paper 13: European History, 31BC - AD900.
  • Part I, Paper 19: History of Political Thought to c.1700.
  • Part II, Paper 8: The Near East in the Age of Justinian and Muhammad (AD 527-700).

Lectures, classes, and sample supervisions for Trinity, Clare, and Gonville & Caius access/outreach schemes:

  • "Thinking about Tyranny in the Sixth-Century Roman Empire."
  • "Who and What Was the Law For in the Sixth-Century Roman Empire?"
  • "Reconstructing the Lives of Women in Archaic Greece."

Two self-designed courses for the Cambridge Higher Aspirations Scheme (Gonville & Caius/Norfolk County Council):

  • "Propaganda in the Ancient Roman World." (2020-21)
  • "Social Life in Archaic and Ancient Greece." (2021-22)

One self-designed course, delivered twice, for the Brilliant Club Scholars' Programme:

  • "Afterlives of Violence: The Politics of Remembering in Late Roman Constantinople."
  • "Putting Discursive Norms to Radical Uses: Agapetus's Advice and the Redistribution of Wealth." Workshop, Constructing and Applying Norms in the Roman Empire and in Late Antiquity, University of Cambridge/Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich, November 2022. 
  • "John Philoponus's Letter to Justinian in its Broader Political Context." Leeds International Medieval Congress, July 2022.
  • "Inventing the Tyrant and the Dissident: Procopius and the Limits on Acceptable Speech." Oxford Byzantine Graduate Seminar, April 2022.
  • "Navigating a Culture Clash at the Court of Justinian I," plus opening and closing remarks. Workshop, Securing Power in the Sixth-Century Roman Empire, University of Cambridge, December 2021.
  • "The Ambiguous Christology of Junillus Africanus." Postgraduate and Early-Career Researcher Late Antiquity Network Conference, September 2021.
  • "Justinian's Laws in a Political Debate Context." Comparative Law Workshop, University of St Andrews, May 2021.
  • "Devolved Networks of Self-Representation and Propaganda during the Reign of Justinian I." Oxford University Byzantine Society International Graduate Conference, February 2021.
  • "Intertextual Political Debate in Justinian's Constantinople." Oxford University Byzantine Society International Graduate Conference, February 2020.
  • "Bureaucratic Culture and the Reproduction of Imperial Propaganda in Sixth-Century Constantinople." Graduate Early Medieval Seminar, Cambridge, February 2020.
  • "John Lydus and Political Debate in Sixth-Century Constantinople." Society for the Promotion of Byzantine Studies Annual Symposium, Cambridge, April 2019.


Tags & Themes


Trinity College, Cambridge, CB2 1TQ