Prof Caroline Goodson

Professor of Early Medieval History
Fellow of King's College
Caroline Goodson

I completed a PhD at Columbia University in 2004, after living in Rome for 3 years to carry out dissertation research. I was a member of the Department of History, Classics and Archaeology at Birkbeck College, University of London, from 2005-2017, and joined the Faculty of History, University of Cambridge, in 2017. Currently, I am on the editorial board of Speculum (2021- ), and the Oxford Studies in Medieval European History (2020- ). 

I take a transdisciplinary approach to the rise of early medieval polities in the Western Mediterranean, including North Africa and in particular, Italy. The Western Mediterranean witnessed the emergence of several different political structures in the post-Roman period, ranging from provinces within a larger empire to independent city-states. I focus on the period between c. 500 and c. 1100, taking as my evidence archaeology and material culture as well as a range of texts.

My research concentrates on the nature of power in this part of the early medieval world, looking at how different groups positioned themselves as successors to the Romans’ past glories or as innovators in a new world order. I am particularly interested in how cities facilitated certain forms of social interaction and political authority and how changing religious practices and politics related to day-to-day experiences (and how these have been transmitted to us through material and textual records). My work deliberately moves between the disciplines of history and archaeology. I have published extensively on medieval documentary and historical texts, such as chronicles, hagiography, and more recently charters and diplomata. The archaeological record is the only body of early medieval evidence that is presently expanding; consideration of material sources against and alongside textual ones offers new vantage points on how early medieval rulers claimed political and cultural hegemony and how their subjects and the rest of the world might have experienced it. In addition to excavation, I use standing buildings archaeology, archaeological archives, and material culture studies in my research. 

I am happy to supervise research students working on early medieval Italy and its neighbours, cults of saints, medieval settlement, environment, economies and urbanism in the Western Mediterranean.   

Part I: Paper 7Paper 13Themes and Sources: Performance and power in ancient and medieval cities; Part II: (Archaeology/History) A24 Medieval Globe; (Classics/History) C4 Transformation of the Roman World: MPhil: Medieval History


Tags & Themes


King's College
Cambridge, CB2 1ST  UK


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Key Publications


Cultivating the City in Early Medieval Italy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021).

The Rome of Pope Paschal I (817-824): papal power, urban renovation, church rebuilding and relic translation, Cambridge studies in medieval life and thought 77. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010).

Villa Magna: an Imperial Estate and its Legacies. Excavations 2006–10, ed. with E. Fentress, M. Maiuro, Archaeological Monographs of the British School at Rome, 22 (London: British School at Rome, 2016),  + online database, catalogue, and specialist essays

Graphic Signs of Identity, Faith, and Power in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, ed. with Ildar Garipzanov and Henry Maguire, Cursor Mundi, 27 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2017).

Cities, Texts and Social Networks, 400-1500:  Experiences and Perceptions of Medieval Urban Space, ed. with Anne Lester, Carol Symes  (Farnham: Ashgate, 2010).

Walls and Memory: The Abbey of San Sebastiano, Alatri (Lazio) from Late Roman Monastery to Renaissance Villa and Beyond, ed. with Elizabeth Fentress, Margaret Laird and Stephanie Leone, Disciplina Monastica 2. (Turnhout: Brepols, 2005) 

Journal Articles and Book Chapters:

'Urbanism as Politics in Ninth-Century Italy,' in After Charlemagne: Carolingian Italy and its Rulers, eds C. Gantner & W. Pohl (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020), pp. 198-218.

'Admirable and Delectable Gardens: Viridaria in Early Medieval Italy,' Early Medieval Europe 27.3 (2019), pp. 416–40.

'Garden Cities in Early Medieval Italy,' in Italy and Medieval Europe: Papers for Chris Wickham's Birthday, eds Ross Balzaretti, Julia Barrow, Patricia Skinner (Oxford, 2018), pp. 339-55.

'Christograms on North African Lamps: Considering Context,' in Graphic Signs of Identity, Faith, and Power in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, eds Ildar Garipzanov, Caroline Goodson, Henry Maguire (Turnhout: Brepols, 2017), pp. 179–94  

Topographies of Power in Aghlabid-era Kairouan,’ in The Aghlabids and their Neighbours, eds Glaire Anderson, Corisande Fenwick, Mariam Rosser-Owen (Leiden: Brill, 2017), pp. 88–105

To be the daughter of Saint Peter: S. Petronilla and forging the Franco-Papal Alliance,’ in Three Empires, Three Cities: Identity, Material Culture and Legitimacy in Venice, Ravenna and Rome, 750-1000, ed. Veronica West-Harling (Turnhout: Brepols, 2015), pp. 159-82

Archaeology and the Cult of Saints in the Early Middle Ages: Accessing the Sacred,’ in Le culte de sainte-Agnès in Agone, Rome, entre Antiquité et Moyen-Âge, ed. C. Sotinel (= Mélanges de l’École française de Rome - Moyen Âge 126.1 (2014): 124–48

with E. Fentress, ‘L’eredità di una villa imperiale in epoca bizantina e medievale,’ Archeologia Medievale 29 (2012): 57–86.

with John Arnold, ‘Resounding Community: The History and Meaning of Medieval Church Bells,’ Viator 43.1 (January 2012): 99–130.

Roman Archaeology in Medieval Rome,’ in Rome: Continuing Encounters Between Past and Present, eds Dorigen Caldwell, Lesley Caldwell (Farnham: Ashgate, 2011), pp. 23–45

with Janet Nelson, ‘The Roman Contexts of the ‘Donation of Constantine’ Review Article,’ Early Medieval Europe 18.4 (November 2010): 446–67

‘La cripta anulare di S. Vincenzo Maggiore nel contesto dell’architettura di epoca carolingia,’ in Monasteri in Europa occidentale (secoli VIII-XI): topografia e strutture, eds Federico Marazzi, Flavia de Rubeis (Rome, Viella, 2008), pp. 425–42 

‘Building for Bodies: The Architecture of Saint Veneration in Early Medieval Rome,’ in Felix Roma : The  Production, Experience and Reflection of Medieval Rome, eds Éamonn Ó Carragain and Carol Neuman de Vegvar  (Farnham: Ashgate, 2008), pp. 51–80 

‘Material Memory: Rebuilding the Basilica of S. Cecilia in Trastevere, Rome,’ Early Medieval Europe 15.1 (2007): 20–52

‘The Relic Translations of Paschal I (817–824) :  Transforming city and cult,’ in Roman Bodies, eds Andrew Hopkins, Maria Wyke (Rome: British School at Rome, 2005, pp. 123–41