Brett Whalen

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Assistant Professor of History (3291); Director, Program in Medieval and Early Modern Studies

457 Hamilton Hall
Campus Box 3195
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3195
919-962-2383 (work)
919-962-1403 (fax)
bwhalen@email.unc.edu

 

 

A.B. University of Vermont, 1994
M.A. University of Vermont, 1998
M.A. Stanford University, 2000
Ph.D. Stanford University, 2005

Research Interests

Professor Whalen works on Christian intellectual and cultural history from Late Antiquity to the High Middle Ages. Among other topics, he teaches courses on the crusades, apocalyptic thought, and the Roman Church.

His first monograph, Dominion of God: Christendom and Apocalypse in the Middle Ages, recently appeared with Harvard University Press. This book explores the medieval belief that Christianity would spread to every corner of the earth before the end of time. During the High Middle Ages, an era of crusade, mission, and other forms of Christian expansion, the clerical elite of the Western Church imagined the future conversion of Jews, Muslims, pagans and Eastern Christians into “one flock” under “one shepherd,” the pope of Rome. Fulfilling Christ’s promises in the Bible, the priestly leadership of the Latin West would assume a place of worldly leadership and pastoral dominion over rulers, prelates, and peoples everywhere before history’s thunderous conclusion. The end of history, however, would be fraught with peril as well as promise. The expectation of a Christian world order raised troublesome questions about the need for reform and spiritual purification within ecclesiastical institutions and society at large. By the later thirteenth century, radical apocalyptic thinkers numbered among Rome’s most outspoken critics, who prophesied a thoroughgoing transformation of the faithful both outside and inside of the Western Church’s borders—from the perspective of established clerical authorities, a subversive and dangerous reading of the future. With the decline of papal prestige and influence in the fourteenth century, the dream of world conversion and Christian expansion before the end of time did not die, but it moved in new directions. Even as things changed, Whalen suggests that the pursuit of Christendom tells us something important about the Western experience beyond the Middle Ages up until modern times.

Professor Whalen was recently interviewed about Dominion of God on the web-program “New Books in History“.

Currently,  Whalen is working on a source-reader, Pilgrimage in the Middle Ages, for the University of Toronto Press, and a brief history of the medieval papacy for Palgrave MacMillan.

Courses Offered (as schedules allow)

For current course listings, consult the Directory of Classes.

  • HIST 89  Faith and Violence in the Middle Ages (First Year Seminar)
  • HIST 107  Introduction to Medieval History
  • HIST 177  The Apocalypse in the Christian Middle Ages (Honors Seminar)
  • HIST 228  The Medieval Expansion of Europe
  • HIST 391  Medieval Europe & the Crusading Experience
  • HIST 431  The Medieval Church
  • HIST 436  Medieval Theology and the Body
  • HIST 701  Medieval Studies (Graduate Seminar