Author Spotlight: Monica White

Here is our second "Author Spotlight"! Learn about one of our recent authors, Dr. Monica White, Associate Professor in Russian and Slavonic Studies, Faculty of Arts, University of Nottingham.

Monica White authored “Protective Warriors: Military Saints from Byzantium to Rus” in the second issue of Medieval World: Culture & Conflict, which was dedicated to the history, art, and culture of Kyivan Rus. 

She is the author of Military Saints in Byzantium and Rus, 900-1200 (2013) and co-editor of Byzantium and the Viking World (2016), in addition to other publications.

Tell us a bit about your background as an historian (education or otherwise). What edge do you think it gives you as an author and as an historian?

I’ve managed never to study or work in a proper History department, but have always skulked in enclaves of Russian, Slavonic or Slavic. This definitely gives me an edge in terms of being on the forefront of unfashionable subjects which are likely to be closed down at any moment. But when I play my cards right, it also affords enormous freedom since, as the only medievalist for miles around, no one has the slightest idea what I do. In addition to all this, I worked in Russia (Moscow and a provincial city) for two years in the late 90s – a unique feat among academic colleagues which has given me a very high tolerance for walking on ice and dealing with overnight trains.

Do you have a favourite event or figure or object from Middle Ages?  

My favourite medieval people by a considerable margin are the Khazars. Who else would be so punk as to convert to Judaism in order to avoid siding with one of the encroaching Muslim or Christian powers? Who else could control trade routes through both the Caucasus and the steppe while corresponding with co-religionists as far away as Spain? Who else could beat the Byzantines at their own game of barbarian-baiting?

Everyone should get to know the Khazars!

What do you find most valuable about this new magazine?

Anything that promotes a nuanced understanding of medieval history is to be celebrated.

What book(s) are you currently reading?

Mark Edmonds, Orcadia: Land, Sea and Stone in Neolithic Orkney

What book(s) on medieval history and culture would you recommend to our readers? 

Jonathan Harris, The Lost World of Byzantium, gives a very accessible introduction to the subject which addresses a lot of the things that modern people find most baffling about the empire.


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