Dr David Natal Villazala

Personal profile

Before joining the department at Royal Holloway, I was postdoctoral researcher at the University of Limoges and at the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna. I also taught modules on Roman, late antique, and early medieval History at the Universities of Manchester and Salamanca.

Research interests

My research has focused on the social history of late antiquity, with special attention to the western, Latin-speaking part of the Roman Empire. 

In my first monograph, I used sociological theories to analyse the impact of Christian asceticism and personal charisma in the construction of clerical authority. Ever since, my interest in bringing the contributions of other Social Sciences into historical analysis has largely shaped my research agenda.

My early postdoctoral research focused on conflict management and revealed the cohesive effects of social competition, which sometimes forced late antique individuals to look for new alliances beyond their existing connections.These results led me to explore network theory and software as tools for analysing social dynamics.

My current project  analyses how a ‘universal’ late antique Church was constructed despite the context of political fragmentation that precipitated the end of the Western Roman Empire and its division into smaller polities. I head a team comprising five researchers and three software developers. During the next five years (2018-2022), we will adapt existing network analysis and GIS software and will explore how informal relationships among distant clerics contributed to disseminating common ecclesiastical laws, visions of the church, and patterns of clerical behaviour, which ultimately strengthened a supra-regional ecclesiastical organisation. This project is funded by the ERC-Starting Grant scheme (€1,465,316) and hosted at Royal Holloway, University of London and at the Austrian Centre for Digital Humanities (Vienna).

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