Professor Philip Slavin


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Professor Philip Slavin

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About me

About me

About me

I was born in St Petersburg, Russia and began my university career at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he pursued two concurrent degrees in History and Violin Performance. I received my PhD in Medieval History from the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto (2008). Before joining Stirling in 2018, I spent two years as a postdoctoral fellow at the Economic Growth Center, at Yale University (2008-10), three years as a Mellon Fellow and faculty lecturer at McGill University, Montreal (2010-3) and five years as a lecturer and then senior lecturer at the University of Kent (2013-8).

Research (1)

Rather than seeing myself as an historian in the ‘traditional’ sense, I view myself as a scientist of the past, whose methodology is inherently trans-disciplinary. Throughout my career, I have been exposed to and studied the research techniques, methodological approaches and conceptual theories of scientific disciplines that enhance our understanding of the past. These include palaeogenetics, palaeoepidemiology, palaeoclimatology, stable isotope analysis, archaeology, statistics, and GIS. I am working hard to engage with palaeo-scientists (especially palaeo-geneticists, molecular biologists, physical anthropologists, and palaeo-climatologists) in trans-disciplinary collaboration in scientific research, to construct and advance an innovative methodology and vision, to guide both humanists and scientists in their current and future research endeavour.

In my research, I use historical knowledge as a powerful tool to understand some of the most important issues and challenges that humankind its wider bio-ecological environment face today. My research interests fall, broadly speaking, into two main fields. Firstly, I am interested in the history of natural environment, economy, health and society of pre-Industrial Eurasia and in the intersection of these ‘four great pillars’ of history. In particular, I am interested in the following historical topics: (1) infectious diseases; (2) environmental disasters; (3) food (in)security and famines; (4) socio-economic inequality. Secondly, in recent years I have expanded my interests in these topics to a global ‘deep history’ perspective, all the way from early hunters-gatherers to our contemporary world. These topics are among the most pressing and complex socio-economic, environmental and political issues that scientists, NGOs and policy makers are struggling with today. Before these issues can be solved, we need a better understanding of their determinants and dynamics in a long-run historical context. I firmly believe that historical knowledge and trans-disciplinary research methods are the way forward for understanding complex issues, global and regional, we are facing today.

As of late 2022, I have written two monographs and published (as a sole- and co-author) 47 journal articles and book chapters on different topics related to environmental, economic, social and global history. These topics include, but are not limited, to plague history; livestock diseases and their impact on pre-Industrial economy; agricultural economy and sustainability; food production, consumption and security; historical subsistence crises and famines; the impact of climate change and weather anomalies on food crises and famines; the impact of warfare on environmental destruction; and a connection between environmental and economic crises and religious violence.

Having finished my second monograph on the arguably the single harshest subsistence crisis in European history – the Great Famine of 1315-7 (Experiencing Famine in Fourteenth-Century Britain, published by Brepols in 2019), I have moved on to work on two different large-scale projects. The one is an array of studies dedicated to various aspects of historical biology and ecology of plague. In line with my intellectual commitment to ‘deep history’ and ‘science of the past’, I am taking a wide and broad spatio-temporal approach, I am studying the global history of plague since its emergence in the Later Neolithic until our own days, with a particular interest in the Second Plague Pandemic (the 14th-19th centuries). Here, my research benefits immensely from my ongoing collaboration with my colleagues in sciences, and particularly palaeo-microbiologists, leading to to the publication of several multi-disciplinary studies, including the June 2022 publication in Nature, which has established, for the first time and after centuries of debates, the spatio-temporal origins of the Black Death (

The other project, a monograph tentatively entitled The Deep Divergence will examine the historical roots of global economic inequality, in a very long run. I expect this book to be a strong contribution to the growing field of economic inequality. In contrast to other works, it argues that we cannot fully appreciate the phenomenon of global economic inequality, unless we study the development of socio-economic and cultural institutions from a ‘deep history’ perspective, which follows this development from early hunter-gatherer societies to our contemporary world. Unlike my first two monographs, aimed primarily at the academic audience, The Deep Divergence will target both academics and a much wider non-academic readership.

When outside a classroom or my office, I enjoy listening to and playing music (be it Classical, Jazz, Rock or Folk), tasting ales, wines and whiskies (the more obscure the better), cooking, hiking and travelling (the further away from 'Civilization' the better). I love languages and have always been attracted to their beauty, written or spoken - and of course, to their history. I also love dogs of all breeds and types.

I welcome enquiries from prospective research students interested in the environmental and economic history of late-medieval and early modern Eurasia – all the way from the Iceland (and Greenland) to Mongolia!



a. Published books

  1. Bread and Ale for the Brethren: The Provisioning of Norwich Cathedral Priory, c.1260-1536 (University of Hertfordshire Press, 2012) ISBN 978-1-907396-62-5 • Reviewed in: Economic History Review 66:2 (2013), 650-1;; Southern History 34 (2012), 148; Agricultural History 87:1 (2013), 125-6; Local Historian; Landscape History 34 (2013), 103-4; Ricardian 23 (2013), 112-4; Accounting History Review 23:2 (2013), 213-5; The Antiquaries Journal 93 (2013), 444-5; Agricultural History Review 62:1 (2014), 171-2

  2. Experiencing Famine: A Fourteenth-Century Environmental Shock in the British Isles (Turnhout: Brepols, 2019) • Reviewed in: Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute for Archaeology & History 44:4 (2020), 708-9; The Medieval Review (2021); English Historical Review 136 (2021), 1618-9; Vierteljahrschrift für Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte 109/2 (2022), 705-6

b. In progress

Deep Divergence: Economic Development and Inequality from the Palaeolithic to the Present (under contract with Cambridge University Press, excepted publication date: late 2026)

Articles in scholarly journals and essays in books

a. Forthcoming (final version, accepted for publication)

  1. ‘‘With a Grain of Sugar’: Native Agriculture and Colonial Capitalism in Frankish Levant, c.1100-1300,’ Crusades 22 (forthcoming in Spring 2023); early view available at

  2. ‘Plague, Demography and Society in Late-medieval Europe,’ in Debating Medieval Europe: The Early Middle Ages, c. 1050–c. 1500, ed. Stephen Mossman (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2023)

  3. ‘Domestic Animals: Energy, Industry and Trade in the Oceanic Age (1200-1550),’ in A Cultural History of the Environment. Volume 3: Oceanic Age (1200CE – 1550CE), ed. Tim Soens (London: Bloomsbury, 2023)

b. Published

  1. (as a co-author; with Cody E. Parker, Alina N. Hiss, Maria A. Spyrou, Gunnar U. Neumann, Elizabeth A. Nelson, Sarah Nagel, Xandra Dalidowski, Susanne Friederich, Johannes Krause, Alexander Herbig, Wolfgang Haak, and Kirsten I. Bos), ‘14th-Century Yersinia pestis Genomes Support Emergence of Pestis Secunda within Europe,’ PLOS Pathogens 19(7) (2023): e1011404; DOI: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1011404.

  2. ‘The Tale of the Two Wandering Charters: Towards the Political and Environmental Background of the Mac-Dòimhnaill - Mhic an Tòisich Alliance in the 1440s,’ in 'With Our Backs to the Ocean,’ in Land, Lordship and Environmental Change in the North-West European Past. Essays in Memory of Alasdair Ross, ed. by Richard Oram (Turnhout: Brepols, 2023), 205-29

  3. ‘From the Tian Shan to Crimea: Dynamics of Plague Spread during the Early Stages of the Black Death, 1338-46’, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 66: 5-6 (2023), 513-627

  4. ‘The Birth of the Black Death: Biology, Climate, Environment and the Beginnings of the Second Plague Pandemic in Early Fourteenth-Century Asia’, Environmental History 28: 2 (Spring 2023), 300-334

  5. (as a co-author; with Ruifu Yang, Steve Atkinson, Ziqi Chen, Yujun Cui, Zongmin Du, Yanping Han, Florent Sebbane, Yajun Song, Yanfeng Yan, Yarong Wu, Lei Xu, Chutian Zhang, Yun Zhang, B. Joseph Hinnebusch, Nils Chr. Stenseth, and Vladimir L. Motin), ‘Plague and Yersinia pestis: Some Knowns and Unknowns,’ Zoonoses 3 (2023); DOI: 10.15212/ZOONOSES-2022-0040

  6. (as a co-author; with Nils Chr. Stenseth, Yuxin Tao, Chutian Zhang, Barbara Bramantia, Ulf Büntgeng, Xianbin Cong, Yujun Cui, Hu Zhou, Lorna A. Dawson, Sacha J. Mooney, Dong Li, Henry G. Fell, Samuel Cohn, Florent Sebbane, Wannian Liang, Howell Tong, Ruifu Yang, and Lei Xu), ‘No Evidence for Persistent Natural Plague Reservoirs in Historical and Modern Europe,’ PNAS 119 (12 December 2022); DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2209816119

  7. ‘A Rise and Fall of a Chaghadaid Community: Demographic Growth and Crisis in ‘Late-Medieval’ Semirech’ye (Zhetysu), c.1248-1345.’ Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 33 (2023), 513-44

  8. ‘Out of the West - and Neither East, nor North, or South (A Reply to Monica Green),’ Past & Present 256 (August 2022), 325–60

  9. (as a corresponding author; with Maria A. Spyrou, Lyazzat Musralina, Guido A. Gnecchi Ruscone, Arthur Kocher, Pier-Giorgio Borbone, Valeri I. Khartanovich, Alexandra Buzhilova, Leyla Djansugurova, Kirsten I. Bos, Denise Kühnert, Wolfgang Haak and Johannes Krause), ‘The Source of the Black Death in 14th-century central Eurasia,’ Nature 606: 7915 (23 June 2022), 718–724; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-022-04800-3

  10. (with Florent Sebbane) ‘Emergence and Spread of Plague in Late-Neolithic and Bronze Age Eurasia, c.5000-1500BP,’ PNAS 119 (21), e2204044119 (17 May 2022), DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2204044119

  11. ‘Climate, Pathogens and Mammals: England in the Age of Emerging Diseases, c.1279-1362’, in Routledge Handbook of Rural Life in Medieval Europe, ca. 1050 to 1550, ed. Miriam Muller (London: Routledge, 2021), pp. 153-74

  12. ‘Out of the West: Formation of a Permanent Plague Reservoir in South-Central Germany (1349-1356) and Its Implications.’ Past & Present 252 (August 2021), 3-51

  13. (with John Haldon, Annelise Binois-Roman, Merle Eisenberg, Adam Izdebski, Lee Mordechai, Timothy Newfield, Sam White and Konrad Wnęk), ‘Between Resilience and Adaptation: A Historical Framework for Understanding Stability and Transformation of Societies to Shocks and Stress,’ in COVID-19: Systemic Risk and Resilience ed. Igor Linkov, Jesse M. Keenan and Benjamin D. Trump (Cham: Springer, 2019), pp. 235-68

  14. ‘Mites and Merchants: The Crisis of English Wool and Textile Trade Revisited, c.1275-1330,’ Economic History Review 73 (2020), 885-913

  15. ‘Death by the Lake: Mortality Crisis in Early Fourteenth-Century Central Asia,’ Journal of Interdisciplinary History 50 (2019), 59-90

  16. ‘The 1310s Event’, in Palgrave Handbook of Climate History, eds. Christian Pfister, Franz Mauelshagen and Sam White (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), pp. 495-515

  17. ‘The Preacher in the Rye: Allegory and Reality of Rural Life in Middle English Sermons,’ in From Learning to Love: Essays on Medieval Pastoral Care, Law and Schools in Honour of Joseph W. Goering, ed. Tristan Sharp with the collaboration of Isabelle Cochelin, Greti Dinkova-Bruun, Abigail Firey and Giulio Silano (Toronto: PIMS, 2017), pp. 492-514

  18. ‘Epizootic Landscapes: Sheep Scab and Regional Environment in England in 1279-1280’ Landscapes 17 (2016), 156-70

  19. (with 31 co-authors), ‘The 1430s: A Cold Period of Extraordinary Climate Variability during the Early Spörer Minimum with Social and Economic Impacts in North-Western and Central Europe’, Climate of the Past 12 (2016), 2017-26

  20. (with Helen Nicholson) ‘The Real Da Vinci Code’: The Accounts of Templars’ Estates in England and Wales during the Suppression of the Order,’ in Templars, their Sources and their Competitors, 1119-1314, Crusades Subsidia Series, ed. Karl Borchardt (Ashgate: Farnham, 2016), pp. 233-46

  21. (with Patrick Mahoney, Christopher W. Schmidt, Chris Deter, Ashley Remy, Sarah Johns, Justyna J. Miszkiewicz and Pia Nystrom), ‘Deciduous Enamel 3D Microwear Texture Analysis as an Indicator of Childhood Diet in Medieval Canterbury, England.’ Journal of Archaeological Science 66 (2016), 128-36

  22. ‘Climate and Famines: A Historical Reassessment.’ WIRES Climate Change 7 (2016), 433-47

  23. ‘The Fate of the Former Templar Estates in England, 1308-1330.’ Crusades 14 (2015), 209-35

  24. ‘‘Flogging a Dead Cow: Coping with Animal Panzootics on the Eve of the Black Death,’ in Coping with Crisis: Re-Evaluating the Role of Crises in Economic and Social History, eds. Alex Brown, Andy Burn and Rob Doherty (Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, 2015), pp. 111-35

  25. ‘Peasant Livestock Husbandry in Late-Thirteenth-Century Suffolk: Economy, Environment and Society,’ in Peasants and Lords in Medieval English Economy: Essays in Honour of Bruce M.S. Campbell, eds. Maryanne Kowaleski, John Langdon and Phillipp R. Schofield (Turnhout: Brepols, 2015), pp. 3-26

  26. ‘Ecology, Warfare and Famine in Early Fourteenth-Century British Isles: A Small Prolegomenon to a Big Topic.’ In Guerra y carestía en la Edad Media, ed. Pere Benito i Monclús (Lleida: Milenio, 2015), pp. 85-99

  27. ‘Warfare and Ecological Destruction in Early Fourteenth-century British Isles.’ Environmental History 19 (2014), 528-50

  28. ‘Market Failure during the Great Famine in England and Wales (1315-7): Towards the Re-Assessment of the Institutional Side of the Crisis.’ Past and Present, no. 222 (February 2014), pp. 9-49

  29. ‘Landed Estates of the Knights Templar in England and Wales and Their Management in the Early Fourteenth Century.’ Journal of Historical Geography 42 (2013), 36-49

  30. (with Sharon DeWitte) ‘Between Famine and Death. Physiological Stress and Dairy Deficiency in England on the Eve of the Black Death (1315-50): New Evidence from Paleoepidemiology and Manorial Accounts.’ Journal of Interdisciplinary History 44:1 (2013), 37-60

  31. ‘Ecology, Famine and Religious Violence: The Case of the Popular Crusading Movement, 1095-1320.’ In Crisis a l'Edat Mitjana: models, explicacions i representacions, ed. Pere Benito i Monclús (Lleida: Milenio, 2013), pp. 173-90

  32. ‘Church and Food Provisioning in Late-Medieval England, 1250-1450: Production Costs, Markets and the Decline of Direct Demesne Management’, in Francesco Ammannati, ed., Religione e istituzioni religiose nell’economia europea, 1000 - 1800/ Religion and Religious Institutions in the European Economy, 1000 - 1800, Fondazione Istituto Internazionale di Storia Economica ‘F. Datini’, Prato, Serie II: Atti delle ‘Settimane de Studi’ e altri Convegni no. 43 (Florence: Firenze University Press, 2012), pp. 597-617.

  33. ‘The Great Bovine Pestilence and Its Economic and Environmental Consequences in England and Wales, 1318-50’, Economic History Review 2nd ser. 65:4 (November 2012), 1239-66.

a. awarded the T.S. Ashton Prize for the best article by a new author accepted for publication in the Economic History Review in the two previous calendar years (April 2013) b. Ranked among ten most cited Economic History Review articles in the 2015 Impact Factor census

  1. ‘Ale Production and Consumption in Late-Medieval England, c.1250-1530: Evidence from Manorial Estates’, AVISTA Forum Journal 22: 1/2 (2012), 62-72.

  2. ‘Food Security, Safety, and Crises’, in Ken Albala, ed., A Cultural History of Food. Vol. 3: The Renaissance, 1300-1600 (London: Berg, 2012), pp. 63-82.

  3. ‘Manorial and Rural Sources’, Joel Rosenthal, ed., Understanding Medieval Primary Sources: Using Historical Sources to Discover Medieval Europe, ed. Joel Rosenthal (Abingdon: Routledge 2011), pp. 131-149.

  4. ‘Crusaders in Crisis: Towards the Re-assessment of the Origins and Nature of the ‘People’s Crusade’ of 1095-6’, Imago Temporis 4 (2010), 175-199.

  5. ‘Late-Medieval Goose Farming: Evidence from Eastern England, c.1250-1400’, Agricultural History Review 58:1 (2010), 1-29.

  6. ‘Feeding the Brethren: Grain Provisioning of Norwich Cathedral Priory, c.1270-1380 [Summary of a Doctoral Dissertation]’, Journal of Economic History 70:2 (2010), 446-50.

  7. ‘The Fifth Rider of the Apocalypse: The Great Cattle Plague in England and Wales and its Economic Consequences, 1319-1350’, in Simonetta Cavaciocchi, ed., Le interazioni fra economia e ambiente biologic nell’Europa preindustriale, secc. XIII - XVIII/ Economic and Biological Interactions in Pre-Industrial Europe from the 13th to 18th Centuries, Fondazione Istituto Internazionale di Storia Economica ‘F. Datini’, Prato, Seri II: Atti delle ‘Settimane de Studi’ e altri Convegni no. 41 (Florence: Firenze University Press, 2010), pp. 165-79.

  8. ‘Chicken Husbandry in Late-Medieval Eastern England: c. 1250-1400’, Anthropozoologica 44:2 (2009), 35-56.

  9. ‘Hebrew Went Latin: Reflections of Latin Diplomatic Formulas and Terminology in Hebrew Private Deeds from Thirteenth-Century England’, Journal of Medieval Latin 18 (2009), 306-25.

  10. ‘From Constantinople to Moscow: Fourteenth Century Liturgical Response to the Muslin Incursion in Byzantium and Russia’, in Dimiter Angelov, ed., Church and Society in Late Byzantium (Kalamazoo: Western Michigan University Press, 2009), pp. 201-229

  11. ‘Between Death and Survival: Norfolk Cattle, c.1280-1370’, Fons Luminis, 1 (2008), 14-60.


Reconstructing the environmental and societal drivers of plague outbreaks in Eurasia between 1300 and 1900
PI: Professor Philip Slavin
Funded by: UK Research and Innovation

Outputs (47)



Yang R, Atkinson S, Chen Z, Cui Y, Du Z, Han Y, Sebbane F, Slavin P, Song Y, Yan Y, Wu Y, Xu L, Zhang C, Zhang Y, Hinnebusch J, Stenseth NC & Motin VL (2023) Plague and Yersinia pestis: Some Knowns and Unknowns. Zoonoses, 3.

Authored Book

Slavin P (2019) Experiencing Famine in Fourteenth-Century Britain. Environmental Histories of the North Atlantic World, 4. London: Brepols Publishers.

Book Chapter

Slavin P (2019) Mammals [in Europe between 1000 and 1350]. In: Newfield TP & Slavin P (eds.) New Environmental History of Pre-Industrial Europe Vol. 2 (1000-1350). Brill Academic Publishers.

Book Chapter

Slavin P (2019) Land Produce [in Europe between 1000 and 1350]. In: Newfield TP & Slavin P (eds.) New Environmental History of Pre-Industrial Europe Vol. 2 (1000-1350). Brill Academic Publishers.

Book Chapter

Slavin P (2018) The 1310s Event. In: White S, Pfister C & Mauelshagen F (eds.) The Palgrave Handbook of Climate History. 1st ed. Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 495-515.

Book Chapter

Slavin P (2017) The Preacher in the Rye: Allegory and Reality of Rural Life in Middle English Sermons. In: Sharp T, Cochelin I, Dinkova-Bruun G, Firey A & Silano G (eds.) From Learning to Love: Schools, Law, and Pastoral Care in the Middle Ages - Essays in Honour of Joseph W. Goering. Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, pp. 492-514.

Book Chapter

Nicholson H & Slavin P (2017) 'The real Da Vinci Code': the accounts of Templars' estates in England and Wales during the suppression of the order. In: Borchardt K, Döring K, Josserand P & Nicholson HJ (eds.) The Templars and their Sources. Routledge, pp. 237-247.


Camenisch C, Keller KM, Salvisberg M, Amann B, Bauch M, Blumer S, Brázdil R, Brönnimann S, Büntgen U, Campbell BMS, Fernández-Donado L, Fleitmann D, Glaser R, González-Rouco F & Slavin P (2016) The 1430s: a cold period of extraordinary internal climate variability during the early Spörer Minimum with social and economic impacts in north-western and central Europe. Climate of the Past, 12 (11), pp. 2107-2126.

Book Chapter

Slavin P (2015) Flogging a Dead Cow: Coping with Animal Panzootic on the Eve of the Black Death. In: Brown AT, Burn A & Doherty R (eds.) Crises in Economic and Social History: A Comparative Perspective. People, Markets, Goods: Economies and Societies in History. Boydell and Brewer.

Book Chapter

Slavin P (2015) Food Security, Safety, and Crises. In: Albala K (ed.) A Cultural History of Food in the Renaissance. A Cultural History of Food. Bloomsbury Publishing, pp. 63-82.

Book Chapter

Slavin P (2012) Church and Food Provisioning in Late-Medieval England, 1250-1450: Production Costs, Markets and the Decline of Direct Demesne Management. In: Ammannati F (ed.) Religione e istituzioni religiose nell’economia europea, 1000 - 1800 / Religion and Religious Institutions in the European Economy, 1000 - 1800. Firenze University Press, pp. 597-618.

Book Chapter

Slavin P (2011) The sources for manorial and rural history. In: Rosenthal JT (ed.) Understanding Medieval Primary Sources: Using Historical Sources to Discover Medieval Europe. 1st ed. Routledge Guides to Using Historical Sources. Routledge, pp. 131-148.

Book Chapter

Slavin P (2010) The Fifth Rider of the Apocalypse: The Great Cattle Plague in England and Wales and its Economic Consequences, 1319-1350. In: Cavaciocchi S (ed.) Le interazioni fra economia e ambiente biologic nell’Europa preindustriale, secc. XIII - XVIII/ Economic and Biological Interactions in Pre-Industrial Europe from the 13th to 18th Centuries. Florence: Firenze University Press, pp. 165-79.