Workshop | Mountains and the Historian
Mountains and the Historian
A workshop at the University of Oxford
May 30-31, 2024
Organized by Christian Sahner (Oxford) and Molly Greene (Princeton)

With generous support from The Ludwig Fund of New College, The Oxford Centre for Byzantine Research, and The Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

Registration required to attend; please contact

The purpose of this workshop is to convene a diverse group of scholars working on mountains in different areas and periods. The goal is to present past or ongoing research as well as to learn from one another by comparing and contrasting different mountainous regions and peoples across time. The workshop is open to many different approaches, but some of the questions we hope to investigate include:
o To what extent are mountain societies structured differently or similarly to those commonly found in lowlands?
o What kinds of polities often formed in mountainous environments?
o To what extent did empires face difficulty in imposing their authority on mountains?
o Why do mountains often have distinctive ethnic, linguistic, and religious profiles?
o What sources—written, archaeological, or otherwise—exist for studying mountains and their human populations?
o How are mountains represented in literature, art, and other forms of culture?
o What characterized the economy of mountains and what natural resources were available for human exploitation?
o What was the relationship between sedentary and nomadic populations in mountains?
o What different forms of mobility connected mountains with lowlands?
o How does the history of mountains compare to the history of other ecologically ‘marginal’ regions, including deserts, river deltas, and polar areas?
o How have modern historians typically researched mountains, and is there room for the development of a subfield of historical ‘mountain studies’?

Day 1 (May 30)
Location: Colin Matthew Room, Ground Floor, Radcliffe Humanities Building, Woodstock Road, Oxford, OX2 6GG
Jason König (University of St Andrews, UK)
‘Mountain Peoples and Mountain Environments in Classical Antiquity and Beyond’
Christian Sahner (University of Oxford, UK)
‘Mountains, “Heterodoxy,” and Missionaries: The Case of North Africa, Syria, and Iran during the Early Middle Ages’
Katharina Winckler (Austrian Academy of Sciences, Austria)
‘Foreigners and Locals: The Control of Transport Routes and Territories in the Early Medieval Alps’
Joshua Wright (University of Aberdeen, UK)
‘Archaeology in High Asia: Mobility, Transhumance, and Urbanism’
Mihailo Popović (Austrian Academy of Sciences, Austria)
‘Terrifying Aspects of Mountains and their Wilderness in the Medieval Balkans and How to Overcome Them’

Day 2 (May 31)
Location: Seminar Room, Third Floor, Radcliffe Humanities Building, Woodstock Road, Oxford, OX2 6GG
Molly Greene (Princeton University, USA)
‘Who Was Where? The Mountains, the Plains and the Transition to Ottoman Rule in Thessaly’
Alebachew Belay (Debre Berhan University, Ethiopia)
‘“Pagan” and Christian Landscapes in the Central Highlands of Ethiopia (c. 6th to 19th c. CE): An Archaeological and Historical Overview’
Stephanie Joy Mawson (University of Lisbon, Portugal)
‘The Freedom of the Mountains: Zones of Refuge and Philippines Ethnohistory, 1565-1750’
Jeremy Mumford (Brown University, USA)
‘Mountains and Bodies in the Andes: From Apu to Genome’
Katherine Ledford (Appalachian State University, USA)
‘“A landscape that resembles us”: Some Challenges of Compiling an Anthology of Mountain Literature’
16:30-17:00 Conclusion
Date: 30 May 2024, 9:00 (Thursday, 6th week, Trinity 2024)
Venue: Radcliffe Humanities, Woodstock Road OX2 6GG
Venue Details: Colin Matthew Room, Ground Floor, Radcliffe Humanities Building, Woodstock Road, Oxford, OX2 6GG
Speaker: Various Speakers
Organising department: Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies
Organiser: Professor Christian Sahner (University of Oxford)
Organiser contact email address:
Booking required?: Required
Booking email:
Audience: Members of the University only
Editor: Claire MacLeod