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On the Spot: Levi Roach

#On the Spot: Levi Roach

Why are you a historian of medieval Europe? 

The Middle Ages are the goldilocks period: enough sources that discoveries remain possible, but not so many that you lose perspective.

What’s the most important lesson history has taught you? 

That people at any given time are unlikely to be good judges of what’s really going on (and why).

Which history book has had the greatest influence on you? 

Geoff Koziol’s Politics of Memory and Identity in Carolingian Royal Diplomas 

What book in your field should everyone read? 

Janet L. Nelson’s Charlemagne: King and Emperor.

Which moment would you most like to go back to?

When Henry I was elected king of Germany in 919.

Which historian has had the greatest influence on you?

Simon Keynes.

How many languages do you have? 

I speak German and read French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Latin, Old English, Old High German and Middle High German.

Is there an important historical text you have not read? 

Lots! I haven’t read many sources from later than the 12th century.

What historical topic have you changed your mind on? 

I used to doubt that the changes undergone in western Europe’s ‘feudal revolution’ were substantial; now, I’m inclined to accept that they were.

Which person in history would you most like to have met? 

Æthelred ‘the Unready’. I’ve always been inclined to look kindly on him, despite (or indeed perhaps on account of) his poor reputation. 

What is the most common misconception about your field? 

That there are no sources.

Who is the most underrated person in history… 


… and the most overrated?

Probably Alfred the Great.

What’s the most exciting field in history today? 

Medical history, environmental history and digital humanities.

What’s your favourite archive? 

The Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv in Munich.

What’s the best museum?

In terms of collections, the British Museum. 

What technology has changed the world the most? 

The printing press.

Recommend us a historical novel… 

Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose. 

… and a historical drama? 

Deutschland 83. 

You can solve one historical mystery. What is it? 

What happened to Arthur of Brittany, the nephew of King John, who went missing under suspicious circumstances. 


Levi Roach is Associate Professor of Medieval History at the University of Exeter. He is the author of four books, including most recently Empires of the Normans (John Murray, 2022).

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