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Christopher Rouse

History, University of Birmingham

Thesis title:

The Intellectual Colonisation of Asia in European Geographical Discourse, c.1200-1500

To date, my research across undergraduate and postgraduate levels – which has covered a range of periods and geographic areas – has been thematically linked by a focus on the historic interrelationships between ideology, discourse and power. This interest in the potential of narrative and representations links my thesis with previous work I have done on Anglo-Saxon saints and the Apocalyptic rhetoric of Gregory VII. 

My thesis continues these themes of ideas and representations. My research explores the depictions of East Asia in medieval European cartography and travel literature, with particular focus on the representations of Asian time, space, and agency. Drawing on and critiquing theories like Edward Said’s “Orientalism”, narrativity and Postcolonial approaches, I analyse how the portrayal of Asia was incorporated into a Christian, European intellectual framework, and how far this conceptualisation can be defined as an “Intellectual Colonisation” in response to geopolitical difficulties. I am especially interested in the conceptual manifestations of Otherness and liminality, and in the topics of Prester John, Gog and Magog, and Nestorian Christians. 

Research Area

  • History


Papers Presented:

  • May 2019 - EMREM Annual Symposium: Powerful Places, University of Birmingham: "O Prester, Where Art Thou? Placing an Absent King in Thirteenth-Century Geographies"
  • June 2019 - New Voices in Medieval Studies, University of York: ""They Make Great Rumours from Nothing" - Emptiness and Nestorian Christians in William of Rubruck's Itinerarium" 
  • July 2019 - International Conference of the History of Cartography, Amsterdam: "When in the World are Gog and Magog? Ideology, Temporalities and the Apocalypse on the Hereford Mappa Mundi" 
Conferences Organised:
  • Together with students from the Universities of Birmingham and Manchester, I have organised the CDF funded two-day conference Meaning, Memory, and Movement: Ancient and Medieval Spaces (23rd-24th November 2019). The aims of this conference were to provide a cross-period, cross-region, multidisciplinary platform for discussions of space and spatiality in the world before 1500.

Public Engagement & Impact

  • October 2018, University of Birmingham: Applying for a Phd and for PhD funding. This was a talk I and a few other first-year PhD candidates planned and delivered for students in Birmingham's College of Arts and Law who are considering applying for a PhD. I was subsequently invited to the M4C application workshop in November 2018, where I gave a short talk on my experiences of applying and was part of a question and answer panel on the same subject.
  • May 2019, M4C Research Festival: Thinking about Medieval Maps (a five minute research-relay talk on an aspect of my methodology)
  • November 2019: I was invited back to the M4C application workshop, where I contributed to a breakout session and a question and answer panel.
  • June 2020: With a group of American scholars who work on medieval maps, I helped put together and organise a resource list for people wishing to learn about or teach on the subject of the cartography of the Middle Ages: http://historiacartarum.org/medieval-maps-and-mapping-resources/

Other Research Interests

  • I am a firm adherent of interdisciplinarity approach in the study of the past, believing in combining a traditional historical method with Art History, literary approaches, codicology, and political sociology. I also take a keen interest in the Global Middle Ages and the interconnected nature of the politics, economies and ideas of medieval Afro-Eurasia. Both of these interests speak to my belief that parochialism and rigid compartmentalisation are barriers to our understanding of history.
  • I am passionate about public engagement with history and heritage and have written on history and other subjects for several platforms. A list of my pieces can be found here: http://chrisrouseportfolio.blogspot.com/
  • In a non-scholarly capacity, I can often be found trawling museums, cathedrals and old parish churches.


  • Royal Historical Society (Postgraduate Membership)


  • 2018 onwards: PhD History, University of Birmingham
  • 2016 - 2017: MA Medieval Studies, University of York (Distinction)
  • 2013 - 2016: BA (Hons) History and Political Science, University of Birmingham (First Class)