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Emeriti faculty
Teaching assistants and graduate assistants
Part-time instructors


Blythe biographical page

James M. Blythe


Graduate Coordinator

[James M. Blythe]

Office: 141 Mitchell
Phone: 901.678.3381   
Fax: 901.678.2720
Education: Ph.D., History, Cornell University, 1987, under Brian Tierney

Fields of Interest

Medieval and Renaissance European History, Intellectual History, Medieval Political Thought, History of Women, Ecclesiastical History, Religious Movements, Millennial Movements, Global History

Research interests: Most of my research and publications has been in the field of Medieval Political Thought, particularly the development of ideas of participatory government. My first book looked at medieval and Renaissance ideas for combining monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy. My second was a translation of and commentary on a treatise by the radical political thinker Ptolemy of Lucca, On the Government of Rulers, written around 1300.

I have also published articles about civic humanism, medieval Aristotelianism, medieval women, and a game a student and I devised for a crusades course. With John La Salle, I recently published two articles on a previously-unknown manuscript by the great Renaissance historian Hans Baron.

Most recently I have published a two-volume study of Tolomeo Fiadoni (Ptolemy of Lucca). This work has proved extremely challenging, since it took me beyond political thought to medieval historiography and ecclesiology, medieval science, biblical commentary, medieval women, the politics of Northern Italy, and also involved work in the Luccan and Florentine archives in order to reconstruct Tolomeo’s life.

Courses taught

Aside from surveys of the medieval and Renaissance periods and graduate seminars covering the whole medieval period, I have taught courses in Medieval Women, Millennial Movements from ancient times to the present, the Crusades, Paleography and Medieval Latin, Political Thought, and the required Ph.D. course in Global History. Currently I have seven Ph.D. students.

Representative publications

  • The Life and Works of Tolomeo Fiadoni (Ptolemy of Lucca) (Brepols, 2009).
  • The Worldview and Thought of Tolomeo Fiadoni (Ptolemy of Lucca) (Brepols, 2009).
  • Ideal Government and the Mixed Constitution in the Middle Age (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992).
  • Ptolemy of Lucca, On the Government of Rulers (“De Regimine Principum”), with portions attributed to Thomas Aquinas, trans. James M. Blythe (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997).
  • “Women in the Military: Scholastic Arguments and Medieval Images of Female Warriors,” History of Political Thought 22 (2001): 242-269. The journal put this article on the Web; you can see it at
  • “Aristotle’s Politics and Ptolemy of Lucca,” Vivarium 40 (2002): 103-36
  • “’Civic Humanism’ and Medieval Political Thought,” in James Hankins, ed., Renaissance Civic Humanism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 30-74.
  • “The Crusades Game,” Medieval and Renaissance Education (1993, with Sarah Pratt).
  • “Family, Government, and the Medieval Aristotelians,” History of Political Thought 10 (1989): 1-16.

(A complete list of publications may be found in the curriculum vitae.)

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