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Department of


Thomas Barton

Associate Professor, History

Thomas W. Barton, PhD, joined the faculty in 2007. He offers a wide sweep of undergraduate courses, including The Medieval World, The Pacific World, Europe’s Discovery and Conquest of the World, Christians, Jews, and Muslims in Spain, Renaissance Europe, and Historians’ Methods. His research concerns the social history of Europe and contacts between Europeans and non-Europeans in the medieval and early modern periods, with a current focus on the case of eastern Iberia and the western Mediterranean.


Ph.D., Yale University (2006)
A.B. summa cum laude, Princeton University, History with a certificate in Medieval Studies (1998)

Scholarly and Creative Work

Barton's research concerns with the institutional and social history of the medieval and early modern Mediterranean with a focus on the confederation known as the Crown of Aragon, which was based along the eastern coast of the Iberian peninsula. He has won a number of fellowships and awards for his research, including a grant from the ACLS (2010) and the Bishko Prize for the best article by a North American scholar on a medieval Iberian topic (2012). In addition to publishing a number of articles in peer-reviewed journals, he has recently completed his first monograph entitled Contested Treasure: Jews and Authority in the Crown of Aragon which explores how different non-royal Christian authorities sought to maintain or harden their administrative control of Jews residing on their lands in the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth centuries and thereby challenge the crown's claim that Jews (and Muslims) were its exclusive regalian preserve. The book will soon appear as the first volume of Penn State Press' new Iberian Encounter and Exchange, 475-1755 series.

He is currently at work on two monographs as well as one textbook project. The first monograph, tentatively entitled Ambivalent Sovereigns: Crises of Leadership in the Medieval Crown of Aragon, studies challenges by noble, municipal, and ecclesiastical constituencies to the development and imposition of royal authority in the Crown of Aragon during the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries. The second considers what an assortment of previously unstudied high and late medieval court cases between Jews, Muslims, and Christians tells us about ethno-religious relations at the individual and community levels. Stepping Into the Past, under contract with Oxford University Press, is a Western Civ textbook designed to help students engage in active learning in their history classes. Barton is authoring the first volume that will correspond to the first half of a standard Western Civ course.

Teaching Interests

Barton teaches a broad range of courses at USD, including surveys on the genesis of European society and upper-division topical courses on European interactions around the world. Strongly committed to developing interdisciplinarity at USD, he is currently co-directing the university’s new Medieval and Renaissance Studies minor and serves as a cross-disciplinary thesis advisor and occasional team-teacher in the Honors Program. Barton strives to implement fresh teaching techniques in his classes in order to offer students engaging and active learning experiences.