Professor in Medieval History

Director, Institute for Legal and Constitutional Research

School of History profile

Themes: rights and ethics; leadership and agency

Keywords: legal history; legal theory and practice; law and religion; multilegalism


Caroline is Professor in Mediaeval History at the University of St Andrews. She is also an L. Lea Bates Global Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School (Ann Arbor). Her research focuses on law and legal practice in relation to broader contexts of social, economic and cultural change. Her publications include the monograph Orthodoxy and the Courts in Late Antiquity (Oxford University Press) and the co-authored volume The Late Antique World (now in French translation). She has recently co-edited the volume Law and Empire: Ideas, Practices, Actors (Brill), in addition to writing numerous ‘introduction to the field’ essays for survey and companion volumes. In 2010 the international impact of her research was recognised with the award of a Philip Leverhulme Prize.

At Birkbeck, University of London, she co-founded the MA in the History of Ideas, for which she taught courses that stretched from the Roman period to the present day, with a particular emphasis on the history of religious and socio-legal thought and action. Before moving to Birkbeck in 2004, she taught history, law and rhetorical theory at UC Berkeley; she has also taught undergraduate and postgraduate courses at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge.

Her research focuses on the cultural and intellectual context of ancient and mediaeval law and legal practice, exploring methodologies and approaches from the disciplines of legal anthropology, sociology and law. She is currently co-editing the Cambridge Comparative History of Ancient Law (with David Ibbetson of Cambridge University and Patrick Olivelle of the University of Austin at Texas): this project is the first of its kind in the field of Comparative Ancient Legal History, working with an international team of scholars specialising in the fields of Ancient Greek, Roman, Indo-European, Near-Eastern and Chinese Law. She is currently finishing a monograph for Oxford University Press: Multilegalism in Late Antiquity, based on her 2013 ‘Carlyle Lectures’ series at the University of Oxford.

Caroline has taught a wide range of courses from archaic Greece to contemporary intellectual and political thought. In particular she has presented a number of Undergraduate and Postgraduate modules on the religious, cultural and political history of Late Antiquity and the early Middle ages, as well as on the history of ideas (Classical, Medieval and Modern).


Humfress, C. Forthcoming. “Beyond the (Byzantine) State: Towards a User Theory of Jurisdiction.” Entangled Legalities Beyond the State. Krisch, N. (ed.). Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Humfress, C. At press. “Law, Bureaucracy, and the Practice of Government and Rule.” The Oxford World History of Empire. Bang, P., Bayly, C. and Scheidel, W. (eds.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Humfress, C. 2020. “‘Cherchez la femme!’ Heresy and law in late antiquity.” The church and the law. McKitterick, R., Methuen, C. & Spicer, A. (eds.). Cambridge University Press, 36-59.

Humfress, C. 2018. “A new legal cosmos: late Roman lawyers and the early medieval church.” The medieval world. Linehan, P., Nelson, J. L. & Costambeys, M. (eds.). 2nd ed. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 21 p.

Humfress, C. 2017. “Gift-giving and inheritance strategies in late Roman law and legal practice.” Donations, inheritance and property in the Nordic and Western world from late Antiquity until today. Rønning, O-A., Møller Sigh, H. & Vogt, H. (eds.). Routledge, Abingdon. 19 p.

Humphries, M., Nicholson O., and team of “subject editors.” 2017. Oxford Dictionary of Late Antiquity Oxford University Press.

Humfress, C. 2016. “Ordering divine knowledge in late Roman legal discourse.” COLLeGIUM 20: 160-176.

View all