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Thomas Fairfax

Languages and Literature, University of Nottingham

Thesis title:

Kinship Connections and the Earldom of Orkney c. 900-1263

This project aims to use genealogies from Orkneyinga saga to map out the family relationships between individuals from Orkney, Norway, Iceland, Scotland, and other areas of the Viking diaspora during the Viking Age and the Late Norse period. By doing this, it will establish the extent to which the aristocracies of Scandinavia and Scotland were interconnected. Furthermore, it will show the types of family relationships which maintained the interconnectivity of the Viking diaspora. By cross-referencing genealogical data from the sagas with documentary, archaeological, and place name evidence, this study will provide a detailed picture of this Norse-Scottish borderland. In addition, it will consider how the oral traditions which contributed to Orkneyinga saga flowed through the family networks of the Orkney earldom.

Research Area

  • Languages and Literature
  • Medieval Literature


Tom Fairfax, ‘Alan Murray of Culbin’, in Conquered By No One: A People’s History of the Scots who made the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320 ed. by Neil McLennan (Old Baberton: Old Baberton Clubhouse, 2020), 198–200.

Tom Fairfax, 'Karl Hundason: Scotland’s Viking king?', History Scotland, March/April 2021, 46-49.

Tom Fairfax, 'The Burning of Bishop Adam: perspectives of a murder on the Norse-Scottish border', Innes Review 72:2 (2021), 101-127.

Tom Fairfax, 'Review: The Northman', EPOCH 8 (2022), Online at epoch-magazine.com.


New Perspectives in Castle Studies - A Virtual Castle Studies Conference Sponsored by the Department of History at Saint Louis University, Online, April 6-9, 2021

Paper given: ‘A special case’? Historic Scotland’s restoration of Stirling Castle and the Scottish castle conservation debate

The Papacy and the Periphery, c.1050-c.1300 - A conference organised by the University of St Andrews in association with the University of Glasgow, Online, October 21-23, 2021

Paper given: ‘Raging like wolves against their godly pastor’: Papal responses to Violence against bishops of Caithness in the Early-Thirteenth Century

International Medieval Congress - Hosted by University of Leeds, Leeds, July 4-7, 2022

Paper Given: 'Making Connections in the Viking Diaspora: What Might Social Network Analysis Reveal about the People of Orkneyinga Saga?'

Ruler, Poet, Saint: Rǫgnvaldr jarl Kali Kolsson and his World - St Magnus Symposium organised by the University of the Highlands and Islands, Kirkwall, September 1-3, 2022

Paper given: 'The forgotten dynasty of Rǫgnvaldr Kolsson'

Connections and the Church in Late Norse Scotland: A conference to commemorate the 800th anniversary of the murder of Bishop Adam of Caithness - Co-organised by Tom Fairfax (University of Nottingham) and Dr Caitlin Ellis (DIAS) and hosted by the Centre for the Study of the Viking Age at the University of Nottingham, Online, September 17, 2022

Co-organiser, chair, and speaker.

Paper given: '‘People still have those injuries in their memories’: The burning of Bishop Adam, 800 years on'

The Sixty-sixth Conference of the Scottish Medievalists, Cumbernauld, 7-8 January, 2023

Paper given: ‘Caithness and the House of Frakǫkk: Revisiting Orkneyinga saga’s ‘Clan Moddan’

Háskóli Íslands Student Conference on the Medieval North, Reykjavík, April 13-15, 2023

Paper given:  '‘Vér hǫfum frændafla mikinn ok marga tengðamenn’: Building family networks in Orkneyinga saga'

14th Bergen International Postgraduate Symposium in Old Norse Studies, Bergen, April 17-20

Paper given: 'The forgotten dynasty of Rognvaldr Kolsson'

Public Engagement & Impact

I am currently a co-ordinator for the Vikings for Schools programme at the University of Nottingham.

Public online talk for Groam House Museum, Rosemarkie (given on 2 September, 2021):

Reactions to the burning of Bishop Adam of Caithness in 1222

Public online talk for Caithness Broch Project (given on 10 February, 2022):

Ousdale Broch and the Caithness-Sutherland border


Member of the Scottish Society for Northern Studies.

Member of the Viking Society for Northern Research.