Professor Kate Cooper

Personal profile

Kate Cooper is Professor of History. Her writing and teaching have charted the world of the Mediterranean in the Roman period, with a special interest in daily life, religion, and the family, and the inter-connected problems of martyrdom, resistance movements, and religious violence. 

Early research focused on gender and rhetoric in the ancient world, with a monograph The Virgin and the Bride: Idealized Womanhood in Late Antiquity (Harvard UP, 1993). Later more empirical work re-framed the fall of the Roman Empire through the lens of women and family, including the monograph The Fall of the Roman Houshehold (Cambridge UP, 2007).  She also writes for the general public, for example Band of Angels: The Forgotten World of Early Christian Women (Atlantic Books 2013), which The New Statesmanhas called ‘the best kind of popular history.’ 

A series of projects on the problem of religion and violence have been supported by major awards from the RCUK Partnership for Conflict, Crime, and Security Research (Constantine's Dream: Belonging, Deviance and the Problem of Violence in Early Christianity,2009-12) and the Leverhulme Trust (Major Research Fellowship 2012-15, for a project on The Early Christian Martyr Acts: A New Approach to Ancient Heroes of Resistance). A collection forthcoming from Cambridge University Press, Conflict and Social Control in Late Antiquity: The Violence of Small Worlds, co-edited with Jamie Wood, brings together the themes of violence and the household.

Current research addresses the boundary between fiction and history, considering how historical fiction can open new perspectives on the ancient world. A monograph in preparation, Augustine and Monnica, re-visits the landscape of Augustine’s Confessions, written in what is now coastal Algeria around the year 400, considering how the techniques of historical fiction can illuminate one of the best-known but still impossible-to-pin-down families of the ancient Mediterranean. A glimpse of this work can be found in a recent episode of BBC 4’s In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg, on Augustine’s Confessions (https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09tyzvz).

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