Thomas Barton, PhD

Thomas Barton
Phone: (619) 260-4042
Fax: (619) 260-2272
Office: Kroc Inst for Peace & Justice 266

Associate Professor, History
Co-Director, Medieval Renaissance Studies

  • PhD, Yale University (2006)
  • AB, summa cum laude, Princeton University, History with a certificate in Medieval Studies (1998)

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.

Areas of Expertise

Medieval Europe and the Mediterranean, Christian-Jewish-Muslim relations, Institutional and social history.

Scholarly Work

Thomas W. Barton's research concerns 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 full-year fellowship from the ACLS (2010) and the Bishko Prize for the best article by a North American scholar on a medieval Iberian topic (2012). His first monograph, Contested Treasure: Jews and Authority in the Crown of Aragon (Iberian Encounter and Exchange, 475-1755, Penn State, 2015), won the Best First Book Award from the Association for Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies in 2016, which considers all first monographs in Iberian history (from ancient to modern) in English, Spanish, and Portuguese over a three year period (January 2013-December 2015). Contested Treasure 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.

Barton is currently completing his second monograph. Anatomy of a Conquest: Catalonia and Islam, 1000-1300, which concerns Christian-Muslim interaction along the lower Ebro River valley between the eleventh and later thirteenth centuries. It examines how changing relations between Christian and Muslim principalities culminating in the conquest and integration of Muslim territory engendered significant political shifts and reorganizations that, it argues, were integral to the development and expression of royal authority within the emergent composite monarchy known as the Crown of Aragon. This study not only breaks new ground as the first archive-based examination of this process of territorial expansion along this boundary in any language. It also makes an important contribution to the ongoing debate among scholars concerning conquest, colonization, and frontier expansion in High Medieval Europe.

A third book project is already well under way. Entitled From the Hands of Infidels: Diocesan Construction in the Crown of Aragon it addresses another topic that has received little attention by modern scholars. It explores how the dioceses of Tortosa and Lleida were restored and developed on lands seized from Muslim control. The book examines closely how these new episcopal sees organized themselves during the consolidation and reorganization of this conquered landscape, jockeyed with neighboring dioceses and independent religious institutions for authority, patronage, and other resources between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries.

Barton has also been conducting work sporadically on a fourth project, a broader monograph entitled Ambivalent Sovereigns: The Pursuit of Royal Power in the Medieval Crown of Aragon. It 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.

Finally, 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 has partnered with colleagues from Oberlin College and Western Michigan University and is authoring the first volume that will correspond to the first half of a standard Western Civ course.

Areas of Interest

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.