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National recognition for York academics

Posted on 20 July 2012

Two University of York academics have been elected Fellows of the British Academy, the highest honour for scholars working in the humanities and social sciences.

Pete Biller is a Professor in the Department of History, where he has taught since 1970. Kathleen Kiernan is a Professor of Social Policy and Demography in the Department of Social Work and Social Policy and joined the University in 2004.

Pete Biller

‌Professor Biller follows a line of earlier Fellows of the British Academy in the Department of History, beginning with its founder, Gerald Aylmer (1976), and continuing with Norman Hampson (1980), John Bossy (1993), and Barrie Dobson (1988).

In one sector of his research, he uses scientific, medical, theological and legal texts from medieval universities to investigate thought on topics such as population. His book on this subject, The Measure of Multitude: Population in Medieval Thought (2000) was joint-winner of the Longman-History Today "History Book of the Year" prize in 2002. More recently he wrote a chapter on Proto-racial thought in Medieval Science, in The Origins of Racism in the West (2010). Work on medieval medicine has led to him serving for the last ten years on history of medicine committees at the Wellcome Trust. 

Professor Biller also works on medieval religion, heresy and inquisition, producing The Waldensians, 1170-1530 (2001), and editing in collaboration Heresy and Literacy, 1000-1530 (1994), Texts and the Repression of Medieval Heresy (2003) and Inquisitors and Heretics in Languedoc: Edition and Translation of Toulouse Inquisition Depositions, 1273-1282 (2011). Currently he is writing a study comparing two inquisitors.

Professor Biller said: “The community of talented and original scholars and lively and able students in the Department of History has provided the intellectual environment for my research and writing. Teaching alongside and talking to early modern and modern historians often poses the question, ‘Was there a medieval equivalent to something they claim as modern?’, and hence the signal to test the proposition in the medieval evidence.”

Kathleen Kiernan

‌Professor Kiernan’s research interests centre on family environments and child well-being in the early years, family change in developed countries, cohabitation and unmarried parenthood, and parental separation and children’s well-being. She is also an expert on life course analysis and the analysis of longitudinal data.

A Professorial Fellow with the Institute for Effective Education at York, she has been an annual Visiting Research Scholar at the Center for Child Research and Well-Being at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University, USA, since 2004.

Professor Kiernan was a member of The Good Childhood Inquiry and is Vice President of The European Association of Population Studies. In 2006 she was awarded an OBE for services to Social Science.

Professor Kiernan said: “Researching the demography of family life has been my passion for over 30 years. Much of my research has used data from our world renowned birth cohort studies, the earliest of which was started by my two great mentors Professor David Glass and Dr James Douglas. Both imbued me with a passion for careful empirical analysis that has policy relevance.”

The British Academy is the UK’s national body for the humanities and social sciences. The Academy is composed of Fellows who are elected in recognition of their distinction as scholars.

Notes to editors:

Contact details

Caron Lett
Press Officer

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