Caroline Goodson Appointed AAR’s Next Andrew W. Mellon Humanities Professor

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Caroline Goodson

Caroline Goodson, a professor of early medieval history at the University of Cambridge and a 2003 Rome Prize Fellow in medieval studies, has been appointed the next Andrew W. Mellon Humanities Professor, with a two-year term starting on August 21, 2024. The appointment was announced by AAR President Peter N. Miller and based on the recommendation of a search committee. Goodson succeeds interim Mellon Professor Allison L. C. Emmerson (2019 Fellow).

“Caroline Goodson’s eminence as a scholar of late antique and early medieval Europe signals our commitment not only to this field, but to promoting the highest quality scholarship,” said AAR President Peter N. Miller. “The perspective she brings as an archaeologist enriches her work on material culture and the environmental humanities and will help the Academy push forward its work in these areas.”

Goodson has taught at Cambridge since 2017, where she is also a Fellow in History at King’s College. Her scholarship bridges the disciplines of history, material culture studies, and archaeology, with a focus on the rise of early medieval polities in the Western Mediterranean, particularly in North Africa and Italy. She is interested in the nature of power in the early medieval world, and how various groups claimed to be successors to the Roman Empire. She also studies the role of cities in the early medieval world, and increasingly engages in questions relating to the historical impact of environmental conditions and changes over the first millennium.

Goodson’s first book, The Rome of Pope Paschal I, published by Cambridge University Press in 2010, considered the city of Rome and its governance in the early ninth century, when Rome’s leader, Paschal I, marshaled spiritual and economic forces to assert independence against external political influence, employing the materiality of Rome (for example, buildings, bricks, and even relics of saints) to political ends. Her second book, Cultivating the City in Early Medieval Italy (Cambridge, 2021), examined the phenomenon of urban gardening and the ways in which horticulture and the spaces of gardens and orchards provided opportunities for social negotiation. In addition to these monographs, Goodson has contributed to several excavation projects and their publication, most recently Villa Magna: An Imperial Estate and Its Legacies (London, 2016), and authored numerous scholarly articles. She has participated in fieldwork projects in Italy, especially in Lazio.

Goodson received a BFA at the Rhode Island School of Design in 1997 and earned her PhD at Columbia University in 2004 in the Department of Art History and Archaeology. Prior to Cambridge, she was a member of the Department of History, Classics, and Archaeology at Birkbeck College, University of London. Goodson serves on the editorial boards of Speculum and Oxford Studies in Medieval European History. She was elected as a fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 2010.

“I am delighted to return to the American Academy in Rome in this role,” said Caroline Goodson. “Rome has been the problem which shaped me as a thinker. Working in Rome teaches us how to look beneath the surface: to go underground, around the corner, and to ask what came before and how it shaped what came after. In my own work, I have a forceful commitment to interdisciplinarity and will use this experience to bring Fellows together and create bridges between them and the intellectual richness of scholars and colleagues in Rome and across Italy.”

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