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Guy Halsall
Professor of History



BA and DPhil (York)

Professor Guy Halsall is a product of York's history and archaeology departments.  After graduating in Archaeology and History, he carried out doctoral research on the archaeology and history of the region of Metz (north-eastern France and southern Germany) between c350 and c750. This was published as Settlement and Social Organization: The Merovingian region of Metz (Cambridge, 1995).

With an established reputation as one of the most innovative students of the history of western Europe between c.375 and c.700, Guy Halsall has published extensively, on subjects including gender and age, death and burial, ethnicity, warfare and violence, the political uses of humour and the writings of Gregory of Tours.  His major monograph Barbarian Migrations and the Roman West, 376-568 was published to critical acclaim in 2007.

Halsall's current research focuses on western Europe in the important period of change around AD 600 and on the application of continental philosophy (especially the work of Jacques Derrida) to history.

Guy Halsall blogs as Historian on the Edge (




The history and archaeology of Merovingian Gaul has remained a focus of Guy Halsall's research.  This has encompassed work on towns and settlement patterns but, above all, the use of archaeological cemetery evidence to study social structures, especially those based around gender and the life-cycle.  The problems of the relationships between documentary and excavated evidence, implicit in that project, have also been a constant area of interest.  A volume of his collected essays on these themes, also containing much new material, was published in 2010.

During the late 1990s and the early 2000s, Halsall developed an interest in early medieval violence and warfare and their place in society and politics.  This led to the lengthy introduction to his edited volume Violence and Society in the Early Medieval West (1998), an important if controversial analysis of feud and vengeance-killing and a prize-winning monograph, Warfare and Society in the Barbarian West, 450-900 (2003).

The use of cemetery evidence to study early medieval ethnicity early became a focus for some of Halsall's most groundbreaking work, rejecting traditional readings of certain burial-types as those of 'Germanic' barbarians. This interest broadened into a major study of the Barbarian Migrations in western Europe (including the British Isles), published by Cambridge University Press in its 'Medieval Textbooks' series in 2007 and now in its fourth printing.

After returning to post-imperial Britain in his academic/popular cross-over volume on Worlds of Arthur (2013), Halsall is developing a concern, manifest there and in various essays on Gaul, with the Transformations of the Year 600 in western Europe, intended to be the subject of a major monograph.  This will cover the same general geographical areas as Barbarian Migrations and the Roman West but in the immediately succeeding period between c.565 and c.650.

His other major current research project is a book on the philosophy of History, provisionally and provocatively entitled Why History Doesn't Matter, which challenges current views on the value of history as identity-affirming 'social memory' to stress history's simultaneously more troubling and more liberating potential.

Guy Halsall would welcome enquiries about research relating to any of the above areas, especially those which are interdisciplinary, using documentary and archaeological material and which are interested in philosophically-informed approaches to the past.



  • Christian Kings and Viking Armies, c.850-900 (first year Period Topic)
  •  (second year Histories and Contexts module)
  •  (second year Explorations module)
  •  (final year Special Subject module)
  •  (final year Comparative Histories module)


  •  (MA Option module)

Contact details

Professor Guy Halsall
Vanbrugh College V/212
Department of History
University of York
YO10 5DD

Tel: +44 (0)1904 322949

Student hours

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