Dr Nicholas Evans
Dr Nicholas Evans

Dr Nicholas Evans

Research Fellow

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Research

Research Overview

My research focusses on understanding the medieval history of Britain and Ireland, in particular of Celtic-speaking countries. I am particularly interested in how they interacted with each other and their neighbours, and how Celtic societies are relevant for our understanding of historical developments. In an era of dynamic interactions between peoples with different identities, we can only truly gain a deep understanding of the period and each geographical area by studying all of the British Isles rather than restricting ourselves to particular modern 'nations'.

In practice, my main research has focussed on the Gaels and Picts of early medieval Scotland and Ireland, especially on the textual evidence, especially chronicles, king-lists, and origin-legends, and similar sources which allow us to reconstruct how people recorded and perceived their own era and their past. However, I am also interested other types of evidence, and how these can used to understand medieval societies, in particular place-names and local, regional, regnal and ethnic communities and identities.

Current Research

I am currently employed as a Research Fellow (Part-time) working on the University of Aberdeen ‘Comparative Kingship: the Early Medieval Kingdoms of Northern Britain and Ireland’ project, led by Dr Gordon Noble and funded by the Leverhulme Trust. I study the textual evidence for kingship in the first millennium A.D. in the project’s case study areas of Munster, Dál Riata (roughly Argyll and the Inner Hebrides) and Pictland in a broader international context. A major part of this research will also be on the sites of Cashel (Co. Tipperary), Dunseverick (Co. Antrim), Burghead (in Moray), and Rhynie (in Aberdeenshire), considering the written evidence, reconstructing their hinterlands’ political, administrative and parochial units, as well as studying their place-names. The aim is to integrate the evidence of textual sources with the project’s archaeological and environmental approaches in order to better understand how kingship and governance developed in regions of Britain and Ireland which had not been integrated into the Roman Empire in comparison with elsewhere in Europe. I am also now participating alongside Professor Gordon Noble in research extending these approaches to areas of southern Pictland.

Past Research

Having obtained an M.Phil. in Medieval Studies at the University of Glasgow, I undertook a Ph.D. dissertation in History at the same university, supervised by Professor Dauvit Broun, was on The Textual Development of the Principal Irish Chronicles in the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries (2003). This research on the Irish chronicles was continued while I was a John O'Donovan Scholar at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies from 2003-6, and then published as articles and a monograph, The Present and the Past in Medieval Irish Chronicles (Boydell, 2010).

Throughout this period, I was also conducting research on Pictish king-lists and origin-legends, and their ramifications for Pictish society. As a Hunter-Marshall Research Fellow at the University of Glasgow (2007-8) I pursued this area further, publishing articles on these subjects, and Pictish succession in following years. This position also involved working in Archaeology at Glasgow as a historical researcher for the Strathearn Environs and Royal Forteviot (SERF) project, reconstructing medieval parish boundaries and providing background historical context for this archaeological project which investigated the hinterland of Forteviot in the lower River Earn valley in Perthshire. An article on the southern Pictish province of Circin was one result of this work. 

Further collaborative investigation of early medieval Scotland, this time with Gordon Noble, led to the publication of An Historical Introduction to the Northern Picts (University of Aberdeen/Tarbat Discovery Centre, 2014), and The King in the North. The Pictish Realms of Fortriu and Ce (Birlinn, 2019), with Professor Noble, as well as to current research for the interdisciplinary 'Comparative Kingship' project.

Publications

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