Christian Raffensperger portrait Professor of History
Chair, History Department
Director of the Pre-Modern & Ancient World Studies Program

Professor Raffensperger obtained his B.A. from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. His first book, released by Harvard University Press in 2012, won the Ohio Academy of History Publication Award in 2013 and is titled, Reimagining Europe: Kievan Rus’ in the Medieval World, 988–1146. It deals with the relationship of Rus’ (the medieval kingdom that becomes Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus) to the rest of Europe. It focuses on the multiplicity of connections between the ruling family of Rus’ and the other ruling families of medieval Europe; including dynastic marriages, religious ties, and trading relationships among other topics. The marital connections of the Rusian royal family are the subject of his second book entitled, Ties of Kinship: Genealogy and Dynastic Marriage in Kyivan Rus' (Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute, 2016) which also provides a complete genealogy for the Volodimerovichi through the mid–twelfth century (this project has a parallel digital humanities component which can be viewed here and is discussed more below). This project has generated recent interest, due to the political situation in modern Ukraine and Ties of Kinship was part of Raffensperger's editorial at the Washington Post, as well as the subject of an article by the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute.

During his sabbatical (2013-14), Raffensperger turned his focus of research to governance of Rus’ and to conflict management in medieval eastern Europe. This resulted in two book publications. The first of those, The Kingdom of Rus’ (ARC Humanities Press 2017) shifts the discussion about Rus’ from a principality or a collection of principalities to one kingdom among many in Europe. It discusses how and why the titles came about, and why Rus’ was a kingdom. The second book to come out of his sabbatical work focuses on intrafamilial conflicts in medieval central and eastern Europe, and how families manage those conflicts through the creation of "situational kinship networks," as a way to mitigate the effects of the conflicts. This book, Conflict, Bargaining, and Kinship Networks in Medieval Eastern Europe (Lexington Books, 2018), not only deals with conflict management, but shifts the perception of medieval eastern European polities, Rus’ in particular, as rife with “civil war” or “internecine warfare”, into polities that are dealing with conflict among families in proactive ways – deescalating conflict, rather than maximizing body counts. The goal of both of these works is to shift the perception of Rus’ in particular as one kingdom among many in medieval Europe, rather than a dysfunctional outlier.

This larger theme is continued in his current research project, “Comparative Political Development in the Arc of Medieval Europe” which looks at political culture from Ireland in the north, through Scandinavia and down through eastern Europe, all in the period 1000-1300. By examining this zone, often viewed as peripheral to a normative view of medieval Europe, we can shift our perception about what is medieval Europe as well as what kind(s) of polities are normative; ideally leading to a shift away from an England-centric focus of political development.

In addition to his role as Professor at Wittenberg University, Raffensperger is an Associate of the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute and active in multiple scholarly organizations. He has recently served on the governing board of the Byzantine Studies Association of North America and on the board for the Ohio Academy of History. He is a founding member of the editorial board for the journal The Medieval Globe, the goal of which is to bring scholarly interconnectivity to our modern understanding of the medieval world. Raffensperger also founded and is the series editor of Beyond Medieval Europe with ARC Humanities Press (distributed by Amsterdam UP). The goal of the series is to publish books that deal with a broader medieval Europe than is traditionally portrayed in Anglophone scholarship.

Digital Humanities has become one of Professor Raffensperger's interests over the course of working on his own project - the Rusian Genealogical Database. This website, which uses a backend XML database, was developed in conjunction with David J. Birnbaum of the University of Pittsburgh. In conjunction with this project, the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute sponsored the development of a genealogy map, as part of their Mapa project, to highlight the interconnectivity of medieval Europe using this dynastic marriage date (for more information see the Rusian Genealogy Map). These applications are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to digital humanities. Collected here are some of the many Digital Humanities resources and projects that students and fellow academics both, can use for their own research.