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Cambridge AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership - Student Profiles



I graduated from Cambridge with a BA in History in 2017 and from the University of Chicago with an MA in Classical Languages in 2018. 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 riot in Constantinople was contested in art, architecture, and texts, especially epigraphy and panegyric. I am now a fourth-year doctoral student funded by the AHRC. I work on political debate in the sixth-century Roman empire.


My doctoral research ("Political Debate in the Age of Justinian I") explores the content and processes of political debate in Justinian's Constantinople and connected spaces. It deals with how political ideas and motifs were produced, received, manipulated, and contested across texts, spaces, languages, genres, social groups and classes, professions, and borders. This intertextual perspective asks whether models of centre-out political thought dominated by the ruling emperor adequately reflect the productive sites and vocabularies of contemporary political discourse, the scope and depth of intellectual networks, or the life of political ideas under late antique autocracy. The project is engaging with still-relevant questions about propaganda and its reproduction, the nature of political discussion under autocracy, public argumentative tactics, and the relationship between writing and power.

My other academic and research interests include:

  • late antique political thought
  • space in intellectual history
  • cities
  • praise & propaganda
  • intertextuality
  • historical ideas of wealth redistribution.

Teaching and Supervisions

  • Lecturing:
    • Part II, Paper 8: The Near East in the Age of Justinian and Muhammad (AD 527-700).
  • Supervising:
    • 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 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 (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 for the Brilliant Club Scholars' Programme:
    • "Afterlives of Violence: The Politics of Remembering in Late Roman Constantinople."

Other Professional Activities

Department: History
Supervisor: Professor Peter Sarris
College: Trinity
AHRC subject area: History
Title of thesis: Political Debate in the Age of Justinian I
Matthew Hassall