Pete Biller
Professor of History

Profile

Biography

MA (Oxon), DPhil (Oxon), FRHistS, FBA

Pete Biller is Professor of Medieval History, specialising in medieval thought, heresy and inquisition. He is a member of Wellcome Medical History and Humanities Interview Committee, and of the board of Bollettino della Società di Studi Valdesi. He was elected Fellow of the British Academy in 2012.

 

Research

Overview

Pete Biller's original research interest was in one of the two major high medieval heretical sects (Waldensianism) in German-speaking lands. He broadened this to the diaspora of Waldensians throughout Europe, and also to the other major sect, Catharism. Together with Anne Hudson (Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford), he edited Heresy and Literacy, 1000-1530 (Cambridge, 1994), which is now standard worldwide, and among the many articles he has been writing on heresy there has been special focus on the role of women, history and memory, and the strength of Catharism in northern Europe. A recent example is ‘Goodbye to Waldensianism?’, Past and Present (2006).

Recently, and particularly in collaboration with a representative of modern Italian research on medieval heresy, Dr Caterina Bruschi (Birmingham University), he has returned to inquisition itself. He has edited a collection of articles on the texts generated by the medieval inquisition, in collaboration with Dr Bruschi, published by York Medieval Press under the title Trials and Treatises, York Studies in Medieval Theology 4. In collaboration with Dr Bruschi and Dr Shelagh Sneddon (Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources, Oxford), he worked on a project, funded by AHRB, for the critical edition of inquisition trials. The edition, 1088 pages long, was published in 2011 by Brill in Leiden as Inquisitors and Heretics in Thirteenth-Century Languedoc: Edition and Translation of Toulouse Inquisition Depositions, 1273-1282.


Pete Biller's research interests broadened out also towards medieval medicine and, increasingly, from the 1980s, towards academic thought - as evinced in commentaries on Aristotle, theology, canon law - as the locus for medieval thought on contemporary social themes such as marriage, trade, war, and so on. Academic thought about one such theme was the subject of his, Measure of Multitude: Population in Medieval Thought; in 2002 this was joint-winner of the Longman-History Today "Historical Book of the Year" prize. His most recent focus has been on proto-racial thought in medieval science. When Visiting Professor at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, during spring 2002, he laid the groundwork for further work in this area, looking at the medieval reception of classical texts about 'races'.

Pete Biller would welcome enquiries from those interested in doctoral research in related areas, including interdisciplinary projects where joint supervision would be involved.

Resources available for research students in York

The J B Morrell has good modern holdings which are supplemented by older material in its own special collections and the Minster Library, while York's proximity to the British Library Lending Division at Boston Spa and the Brotherton Library in Leeds further extend the research possibilities in York.

Medieval heresy: here the holdings of trial material make York one of the best centres anywhere in Europe. Apart from the J B Morrell's modern printed editions of inquisition trials, its Mirfield collection contains Limborch's 1690 edition of Bernard Gui's inquisition sentences and an early modern edition of medieval treatises polemicising against heresies, and in addition there are available microfilms of manuscripts from Paris and Toulouse of the principal trials from thirteenth century Languedoc.

Medieval academic social thought: the JB Morrell and Minster libraries have a good range of the rarer early modern as well as modern editions of the canon-legal and theological sources for study in this area. Medieval medicine: the Minster library contains some valuable renaissance editions of medieval medical treatises, and these are supplemented in the J B Morrell library by microfilms and modern facsimiles of early modern editions of other medieval works. One important example of complementarity is the Minster's possession of the 1532 Lyons edition of Arnau de Vilanova's Opera omnia, and the J B Morrel's subscription to the modern edition (Barcelona, 1975- ), and its possession of related modern secondary material, including history of medicine journals. The Library also subscribes to Patrilogia Latina and Acta Sanctorum online.

Teaching

Undergraduate

Contact details

Prof. Pete Biller
Vanbrugh College V/138
Department of History
University of York
Heslington
York
YO10 5DD

Tel: Internal 2955, External (01904) 322955