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 the John L. and Christine Warner Family Endowed Professor of History. He is Director of Denison’s Lisska Center for Intellectual Engagement, which serves as the campus hub for intellectual life, supports student and faculty research, and assists students applying for national and international fellowships. 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.” During the 2017-18 academic year, he was a Visiting Fellow at Clare Hall, Cambridge University. 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.

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

Learning & Teaching

  • HIST 152: Late Antiquity
  • HIST 153: Origins of Europe: Medieval Society
  • HIST 201: Doing History: Debating the Middle Ages
  • HIST 205: Sophomore Seminar - The History of the Liberal Arts
  • HIST 251: The Crusades
  • HIST 253: The Renaissance and Reformation of the Twelfth Century
  • HIST 255: Jews and Christians in the Middle Ages
  • HIST 350: Plagues and Peoples: From the Black Death to Covid-19
  • HIST 430: Senior Seminar: Religion and Society in Medieval Europe
  • W101: Writings About the Self



A historian of medieval Europe, Davis’s scholarship reflects his 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. 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 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.




  • The Medieval Economy of Salvation: Charity, Commerce, and the Rise of the Medieval Hospital (Cornell University Press, 2019; pbk 2021)
  • The Holy Bureaucrat: Eudes Rigaud and Religious Reform in Thirteenth-Century Normandy (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2006).

Recent journal articles and book chapters

  • “Poverty, Charity and Spirituality,” in A Cultural History of Poverty: The Middle Ages, ed. Eliza Buhrer (Bloomsbury Academic) (in press)
  • “Servants and Service in Twelfth and Thirteenth-Century Hospitals,” in “We Are All Servants:” The Diversity of Service in Premodern Europe, 1000-1700, edited by Isabelle Cochelin and Diane Wolfthal (Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, University of Toronto Press, 2022): 215-233
  • “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 (with Bertrand Taithe) 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


Honors & Awards
  • Ohio Academy of History’s 2021 Publication Award for The Medieval Economy of Salvation as the best history book in any region/time period published by an Ohio author the previous year
  • Visiting Fellow, Clare Hall, Cambridge University, 2017-18 (Life Member, Clare Hall)
  • R. C. Good Fellowship, research sabbatical, 2017-18
  • Charles A. Brickman Teaching Excellence Award, Denison University, 2016
  • National Endowment for the Humanities, Fellowship, 2014-15
  • R. C. Good Fellowship, Research sabbatical 2009-10: Visiting Scholar at Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio
  • Lilly Endowment Fellowship, research sabbatical, Fall 2006
  • Mellon Cluster Grant for “World of Byzantium” travel study project
  • Bourse Chateaubriand, French government fellowship for year-long doctoral dissertation research and academic study in France, 1998-1999.


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