Adam J. Davis

Adam J. Davis

Director of the Lisska Center for Intellectual Engagement
The John and Christine Warner Professorship
Position Type
- Present
Medieval Europe

Adam J. Davis is Professor of History and Director of Denison’s Lisska Center for Scholarly Engagement, which serves as the campus hub for intellectual life, supports student and faculty research, and assists students applying for national fellowships. During the 2017-18 academic year, he was a Visiting Fellow at Clare Hall, Cambridge University. He served as Chair of Denison’s History Department from 2011-14, and held the William T. Utter/Clyde E. Williams, Jr. Endowed Professorship from 2012-18.

A historian of medieval Europe, Davis has wide-ranging interests in medieval ecclesiastical reform and religious life, medieval attitudes toward commerce, wealth, and poverty, and the history of charity and charitable institutions. He teaches survey courses on late antiquity and medieval Europe, as well as seminars on religion and society in medieval Europe; Plagues and Peoples: From the Black Death to Covid-19; the Crusades; Jews and Christians in the Middle Ages; the intellectual and cultural “renaissance” of the twelfth century; and the history of the liberal arts from antiquity to the present. In 2016 he was awarded Denison University’s Charles A. Brickman Teaching Excellence Award, “given each year to a faculty member who is a master craftsman in the profession.”

Adam Davis’s research explores the interplay between medieval ideas and institutions, social values and practices. His most recent book, The Medieval Economy of Salvation: Charity, Commerce, and the Rise of the Medieval Hospital (Cornell University Press, 2019; pbk 2021), explores the connection between the emergence of the medieval commercial economy and the rise of hospitals as new charitable institutions in the Latin West. It casts new light on the nature of Christian charity during Europe’s first great age of commerce. The book was awarded the Ohio Academy of History’s 2021 Publication Award for the best history book in any discipline published the previous year by an Ohio author. Davis’s first book, The Holy Bureaucrat: Eudes Rigaud and Religious Reform in Thirteenth-Century Normandy (Cornell UP, 2006), brought together the intellectual and theological world of the University of Paris with the administrative and moral challenges a Franciscan archbishop faced while trying to reform the French clergy and laity. He is currently collaborating with a colleague on a comparative study of medieval Jewish and Christian ideas about charity, wealth, and the afterlife, and a book-length cultural history of medieval ambition.

Davis has been the recipient of a year-long Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities, a Bourse Chateaubriand (given by the French Embassy), two Robert C. Good Fellowships, as well as grants from the Mellon Foundation and the Lilly Endowment. He has written for Inside Higher Ed, The Conversation, and HistPhil, and has served as a book review editor for H-France Reviews and The Medieval Review.

B.A., Yale University; M.A., Ph.D., Princeton University


  • The Medieval Economy of Salvation: Charity, Commerce, and the Rise of the Medieval Hospital (Cornell University Press, 2019; pbk 2021)
  • “Servants and Service in Twelfth and Thirteenth-Century Hospitals,” ‘We Are All Servants’: Servants and Service in Premodern Europe (Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, University of Toronto Press) (in press)
  • “Poverty, Charity and Spirituality,” in A Cultural History of Poverty: The Middle Ages, ed. Eliza Buhrer (Bloomsbury Academic) (in process)
  • “Hospitals, Charity and the Culture of Compassion in Medieval Europe,” in Approaches to Poverty in Medieval Europe: Complexities, Contradictions, Transformations, c. 1100-1500, edited by Sharon Farmer (Turnhout: Brepols, 2016): 23-45.
  • “The Social and Religious Meaning of Charity in Medieval Europe,” History Compass 12.12 (December 2014): 935-950
  • “The Economic Power of a Hospital in Thirteenth-Century Provins,” in Center and Periphery: Studies on Power in the Medieval World in Honor of William Chester Jordan, edited by Katherine L. Jansen, G. Geltner, and Anne E. Lester (Leiden: Brill, 2013): 121-134.
  • “From the Purse and the Heart: Exploring Charity, Humanitarianism, and Human Rights in France,” co-authored introduction to Toward a French History of Universal Values: Charity, Humanitarianism, and Human Rights, a special issue of French Historical Studies 34.3 (Duke University Press) (Summer, 2011): 413 – 432.
  • “Preaching in Thirteenth-Century Hospitals,” Journal of Medieval History 36, no. 1 (March 2010): 72-89.