Prof. Richard Abels
Department of History,
The United States Naval Academy
Courses (and sample syllabi):
Web Articles for Teaching
(Some of these are short pieces I wrote for use in my classes; others are documents that I edited and annotated. Feel free to use them but please give appropriate credit):
My research has focused on military and political institutions of Anglo-Saxon England, although I have also written about medieval heresy. I am currently writing a book on the influence of culture on the practice and representation of warfare in the medieval West, 500-1500.
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Columbia University:
Ph.D. awarded February, 1982
(J.M.W. Bean, Sponsor; John Mundy, Second Reader)
Dissertation: "Lordship and Military Obligation in Anglo-Saxon England"
M.Phil. awarded May, 1976
Orals: February, 1976. 'Excellent' in Medieval History (major field) and Early Modern Europe (minor field)
Examiners: Profs. J.M.W. Bean, John Mundy, J.W. Smit, and N. Garsoian
M.A. awarded January, 1976
Master's Thesis: "The effects of the Norman Conquest on the English thegnage"
Columbia College, Columbia University:
B.A. awarded magna cum laude May, 1973
Chair, History Dept, The United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland (2008-present)
Professor of History, The United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland (1991-present)
Associate Professor of History, The United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland (1986-1991)
Assistant Professor of History, The United States Naval Academy (1982-1985)
Assistant Professor of History (Visiting), Cornell College, Iowa (1981-1982)
Instructor in History, Columbia University (1981)
Preceptor in History, Columbia University (1977-1980)
HONORS AND AWARD
Member of the School of Historical Studies, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton (AY 2008)
The U.S. Naval Academy’s Civilian Service Excellence Award (2008)
The U.S. Naval Academy's Civilian Research Excellence Award (2003)
The U.S. Naval Academy’s Civilian Teaching Excellence Award (1991)
National Endowment for the Humanities Grant: "Teaching Ethics in the Humanities Core at USNA" (1993-1994)
Dept. of the Navy Superior Civil Service Medal (2003)
Dept. of the Navy Meritorious Civil Service Medal (1991, 2008)
Baltimore Federal Executive Board Bronze Medal (1991)
Fellow of the Royal Historical Society (elected 1990)
Chamberlain Fellow, Columbia University, 1980-81
President's Fellow, Columbia University, 1974-77
Harry J. Carman Fellow, Columbia University, 1973-74
B.A. magna cum laude
Phi Beta Kappa (May, 1973)
Alfred the Great: War, Kingship and Culture in Anglo-Saxon England. Longman, 1998.
Raoul of Cambrai: An Old French Epic, trans. J. Crosland (1926). Revised translation with introduction by R. Abels. American
Heritage CP, 1994.
Lordship and Military Obligation in Anglo-Saxon England. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California, 1988.
The Normans and their Adversaries: Essays in Memory of C. Warren Hollister. Co-edited with Bernard Bachrach. Woodbridge,
Suffolk: Boydell and Brewer, 2001.
Articles and Chapters in Books
“The Evolution of Civil Defense in Anglo-Saxon England: Costs and Consequences.” In Landscapes of Defence in the Viking Age: Anglo-Saxon England and
Comparative Perspectives. Brepols in the Studies in the Early Middle Ages 28 (2013).
“What has Weland to do with Christ? The Franks Casket and the Acculturation of Christianity in Early Anglo-Saxon England.”
Speculum (July 2009).
“The Historiography of a Construct: ‘Feudalism’ and the Medieval Historian.” History Compass. Online at
“Cultural Representation and the Practice of War in the Middle Ages.” Journal of Medieval Military History 6 (2008): 1-31.
“Mercenaries and Paid Men in Anglo-Saxon England.” Pp. 143-66 in Mercenaries and Paid Men: The Mercenary Identity in the
Middle Ages. Ed. John France. Brill, 2008.
“Paying the Danegeld: Anglo-Saxon peacemaking with vikings.” Pp. 173-92 in War and Peace in Ancient and Medieval History.
Ed. Philip de Souza and John France. Cambridge University Press, 2008.
“Concluding Remarks.” Pp. 256-64 in Lay Intellectuals in the Carolingian World. Ed. Patrick Wormald and Janet Nelson.
Cambridge University Press, 2008.
Entries for Alfred the Great, Asser, feudalism, fyrd, and Wessex in Early Peoples of Britain and Ireland: an Encyclopedia. Ed.
Christopher Snyder. Oxford: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2008.
“"King Alfred the Great and his Biographers: Images and Imagination." Pp. 61-75 in Writing Medieval Biography, 750-1250:
“Cowardice and Duty in Anglo-Saxon England.” J. of Medieval Military History 4 (2006): 29-48.
“A Lying Legacy? A Preliminary Discussion of Images of Antiquity and Altered Reality in Medieval Military History.” J. of
Medieval Military History 5 (2005): 1-13. (With Stephen Morillo).
Entries for “Thorkell the Tall,” “Ulfcetel, and ”Brihtnoth” in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004)
“Alfred the Great, the micel hæthen here and the viking threat.” Pp. 265-79 in Alfred the Great:Papers from the Eleventh-
Centenary Conferences. Ed. Timothy Reuter.Aldershot, Hants: Ashgate, 2003.
"Royal Succession and the Growth of Political Stability in Ninth-Century Wessex." Haskins Society Journal: Studies in Medieval
History. 12 (2002 for 2003): 83-97.
“From Alfred to Harold II: The Military Failure of the Late Anglo-Saxon State.” Pp. 15-30 in The Normans and their Adversaries.
Ed. R. Abels and B. Bacharach (2001).
Military history entries for Blackwell Companion to Anglo-Saxon Studies, ed. S. Keynes and M. Lapidge, Blackwell, 1999.
“Sheriffs, Lord-Seeking and the Norman Settlement of the South-East Midlands,” Anglo-Norman Studies 19 (1997): 19-50.
"King Alfred's Peace-Making Strategies with the Vikings," Haskins Society Journal: Studies in Medieval History 3 (1991): 23-34.
"English Tactics and Strategy in the Late Tenth Century." Pp. 143-55 in The Battle of Maldon A.D. 991. Ed. D. G. Scragg. Oxford:
Basil Blackwell, 1991.
"Historical Introduction to Domesday Hertfordshire." Domesday Book Facsimile: Hertfordshire. London: Alecto Editions, 1991.
"Historical Introduction to Domesday Bedfordshire." Domesday Book Facsimile: Bedfordshire. London: Alecto Editions, 1991.
"Bookland and Fyrd Service in Late Saxon England," Anglo-Norman Studies 7 (1985), pp. 1-25. Reprinted with additions in The
Battle of Hastings. Ed. Stephen Morillo. Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1995.
"The Devolution of Bookland in Ninth-Century Kent," Archaeologia Cantiana 99 (1983): 219-224.
"The Participation of Women in Languedocian Catharism," Mediaeval Studies 41 (1979): 215-251 (with E. Harrison.).
CONFERENCE AND UNIVERSITY PRESENTATIONS
"Representations of Warfare in the Morgan Picture Bible." 2010. Charles Homer Haskins Society Conference, Boston College, 5 November.
“Evolving English Strategies during the Viking Wars.” Conduct of Warfare, c.950-c.1350: Strategy, Caceres, Spain. 11-12 November, 2009.
“’The crimes by which Wulfbald ruined himself with his lord’: The Limits of State Action in Late Anglo-Saxon England.”
Medieval Academy of America Meeting. 4 April, 2008.
“Cultural Representations of Warfare in the Morgan Picture Bible (Morgan Library Ms M.638).” School of Historical Studies,
Institute of Advanced Study, Princeton, N.J. March 3, 2008.
“The Evolution of Civil Defense in Anglo-Saxon England: Costs and Consequences.” Landscapes of Defence in the Viking Ages:
Anglo-Saxon England and comparative perspectives. University College, London (hosted by UCL Institute of
Archaeology). 9-10 November 2007. (Keynote speaker.)
“The Surrender of Jerusalem in 1187: Culture and War in the Middle Ages.” Medieval Studies Program Lecture. University of
Virginia. March 23, 2007.
“Cultural Representation and the Practice of War in the Middle Ages.” Journal of Medieval Military History Annual Lecture at the
Forty-First Congress in Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI, 5 May, 2006.
“Mercenaries and Paid Men in Anglo-Saxon England.” Mercenaries and Paid Men: The Mercenary Identity in the Middle Ages.
University of Wales Swansea. 7 July 2005. (Featured lecture.)
"Conceptions of Courage in Anglo-Saxon England," Charles Homer Haskins Society Conference, Cornell University, 3 November
"King Alfred the Great and his Biographers: Images and Imagination," The Limitations of Biography: Conference in Honour of
Frank Barlow, University of Exeter (UK), July 10-12, 2003. (Expanded version given as keynote address at Charles Homer
Haskins Society Conference, Cornell University, 4 November 2003.)
“‘What has Weland to do with Christ?’ The Franks Casket and the Acculturation of Christianity in Early Anglo-Saxon England,”
International Congress on Medieval Studies. Kalamazoo, MI, May 2001. (Revised version given at the Haskins Society
Conference, Cornell University, Nov. 2002.)
“Peace-making with Vikings: the Anglo-Saxon Experience,” The Anglo-American Conference, Institute of Historical Research,
London, 5-7 July 2000.
“The Generalship of Alfred the Great,” Society for Military History, Quantico, Virginia, 28-30 April 2000
“What ‘Great Heathen Army’? Alfred the Great and the Nature of the Viking Threat,” Alfred the Great Eleventh-Centenary
Conference, University of Southampton, U.K., 8-12 Sept 1999
“The Growth of Political Stability in Ninth-Century England,” American Historical Association Annual Meeting, New York,
“The Role of Sheriffs in the Norman Settlement,” 19th Annual Battle Conference for Anglo-Norman Studies. Battle, England, 27
“Anglo-Saxon Logistics in the Late 9th and 10th Centuries,” Military Aspects of Scandinavian Society in a European Perspective,
AD 1-1300. The National Museum, Copenhagen. 4 May 1996.
“Love and Lordship: The Political Vocabulary of Alfred the Great.” Medieval and Byzantine Studies Program at Catholic
University. 13 Feb. 1996.
"Wealth, Wisdom and War: The Political Ideas of King Alfred." Keynote Speaker at Annual Meeting of Phi Alpha Theta for
Wabash College. Crawfordsville, Indiana, 13 April, 1994.
"Alfred the Great's Conception of Kingship." International Congress on Medieval Studies. Kalamazoo, MI, 9 May 1992
"Paying the Danegeld: The War Policies of Alfred the Great and Æthelred the Unready." Annual Conference of the Charles
Homer Haskins Society for Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-Norman, Angevin, and Viking Studies. U. of Houston, 8 Nov. 1991.
"King Alfred's Peace-Making Strategies with the Vikings." The Annual Conference of the Charles Homer Haskins, U. of Houston, 9
"Bede, Beowulf, and the Early English Church." Columbia University Renaissance and Medieval Seminar. Columbia U., N.Y., 22
"England's Grand Strategy in the Ninth and Tenth Centuries." New England Medieval Conference. U. of New Hampshire, Durham,
25 Oct. 1986.
"The Organization of the Late Anglo-Saxon Army." American Historical Association. New York, New York, 28 Dec. 1985
The Military Organization of King Alfred's England." The Annual Conference of the Charles Homer Haskins Society, U. of
Houston, 9-11 Nov. 1984
"Bookland Tenure and Military Obligation in Late Anglo-Saxon England." Seventh Annual Battle Conference for Anglo- Norman
Studies, Battle, England, 20-25 July 1984
"The Worcestershire and Berkshire Domesday Custumals and Military Recruitment in late Saxon England." Nineteenth
International Congress on Medieval Studies. Klamazoo, MI, 10-13 May 1984
"The Introduction of Bookland Tenure and the Military Crisis of the Eighth Century." The Annual Conference of the Charles
Homer Haskins Society. U. of Houston, 12 Nov. 1983
"The Council of Whitby." First Annual Conference of the Charles Homer Haskins Society, U. of Houston, 10 Nov 1982
I have also given public lectures at the Smithsonian for the Smithsonian Associates:
“Embroidering History: The Bayeux Tapestry and the Norman Conquest.” 11 November 2006; 20 January 2013
“Wales and the Anglo-Saxon Kings.” 1 April 2006.
“The Knights Templar in History and Legend.” 22 July 2004.
BOOK REVIEWS. I regularly review for Speculum, Albion, Medieval Review (online),
De Re Militari (online). I have also reviewed for AHR and EHR.
CURRENT RESEARCH PROJECT
Warfare and Culture in the Medieval West, 500-1500. Under contract with Yale University Press.
PROFESSIONAL AFFILIATIONS AND OFFICES
President of the Charles Homer Haskins Society for Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-Norman and Angevin Studies (1998-2001)
Vice-President for N. America, Haskins Society (1994) [Organized program for annual conference and sessions for AHA and
International Congress for Medieval Studies]
Associate editor for Haskins Society Journal: Studies in Medieval History (2001-05)
History reviewer for Old English Studies Newsletter (1998-2001)
J. F. Verbruggen Prize Committee (for best monograph in medieval military history), chair, 2001-2, member 2003-2007
North American Conference on British Studies, Walter D. Love Prize Committee for Best Article in British Studies, Chairman 1989;
Middle Atlantic Conference on British Studies, Program Organizer (with Assoc. Prof. N. Ellenberger, USNA) for Spring 1991
Refereed book manuscripts and proposals for Oxford (ms and proposals), University of Pennsylvanian (ms), University of California Press (mss), Cornell University Press (ms), Boydell & Brewer (ms and proposals), Houghton-Mifflin (ms), Routledge (proposals), Yale University Press (proposals), McGraw-Hill (proposal), Naval Institute (ms and proposals), and Basil Blackwell (proposals).
Refereed articles for American Historical Review, Albion, Speculum, Journal of World History, The Haskins Journal: Medieval Studies, Journal of Medieval Military History, Arizona Studies in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, History: Review of New Books
Refereed scholarship for promotion for candidates at University of Virginia, Boston College, Bates College, Loyola College in Maryland, Wabash College, East Carolina University, UC at Davis, University of Swansea, Wales (U.K.).
Refereed research fellowships from the Leverhulme Foundation, Institute for Advanced Studies, Radcliffe Fellowship, Guggenheim
Outside reader and primary director of Dr. Stefan Zimmer’s dissertation, Georgetown U. 2006. Second reader for Dr. Christine Senecal’s dissertation at Boston College, 1999. Outside reader for Dr. Craig Nakashian's dissertation, University of Rochester, 2009.
(MAJOR COMMITTEE ASSIGNMENTS)
Navy selection board for Permanent Military Professor (April 2006)
YARD AND HUM/SS DIVISION
Senate/Faculty Governance Involvement:
President of the Faculty Senate (AY 2006, 2007);
Vice President of the Faculty Senate (AY 2004, 2005).
Faculty Senate Rep for History Dept. AY 1993-1999; Division III representative (AY2004-present)
Co-chaired the Senate Constitution Committee and negotiated the formation of the Senate with Adm. Lynch during the summer of 1993.
Academic Assembly (Senate rep to, AY 2004-2005)
Senate rep to Commandant’s Staff meetings (2003-2005)
Senior Leadership Council (ex officio Senate rep, AY 2004-present)
President of Faculty Forum (AY summer 1992-fall 1993: presided over abolition to make way for a Faculty Senate); VP AY 1992; member (AY 1985-1986)
Objectives Review Board (AY1992);
Faculty Forum, Chair Curriculum Committee (AY 1992)
As President of the Faculty Forum I initiated the process that led to the reconstituting of the Civilian Faculty Committee and Faculty Forum into a single Faculty Senate. My most rewarding work as Faculty Senate President was to oversee the Senate initiative that made child care more readily available to civilian faculty and staff.
Rhodes, Marshall, and FitzGerald Program/British Scholarships Program (director, AY 1991, co-director, AY 1988-1991, member of British Scholarships Committee AY 1984-present.)
British Scholarships Youngster program (director Youngster program AY 2003-2004; co-director: AY 1984-1987)
Pownall Scholarship Committee (AY 1991-1992, 1996).
Promotion, Admissions, and Assessment Committees
Co-Chair of the Middle States Committee on Faculty (AY 2004-2005).
Yard-Wide Promotion and Tenure (co-chair AY 1995),
Admissions Board (AY 1993),
Teacher/Student Partnership PAT, chair. Defined “quality education at USNA and made proposals to improve educational process (AY1994).
Ad hoc Committee for Integrating the Civilian Faculty: responded to Turner Commission queries (AY 1998)
Periodic Middle States Review. Chair for committee on USNA organization. (AY 1999)
Naval Academy Research Committee (2001);
USNA 2000: academics and teaching committee (AY1992)
Character development/gender relations committees
Character Development Course PAT: worked with COL M. Hagee to develop program Integrity Development Seminar program (AY1994)
Human Relations Committee. AcDean’s representative (only civilian and academic on committee). The committee finally “answered the mail” on the Rondeau Report. (AY2003).
Academy Group (to realign training and education to meet warfighting needs of 21st century). (AY2002)
Steering Committee for Dignity and Respect Implementation Team. AcDean's representative (only civilian and only academic on committee). This Commandant's committee focused on improving the climate of dignity and respect at USNA (AY 2000-2001)
Faculty Awards Committees:
Research Excellence Committee (co-chair, 2004-2005);
Teaching Excellence Prize Committee (AY 2001-2003);
Clements Prize Committee for best military instructor (AY1998-2000);
Apgar Award Committee (AY 2001-2003)
Emergency Management Working Group (AY2006)
Helped preserve existing Mission Statement (1992). This wasn’t related to a committee assignment, but I am proud of it nonetheless.
Chair (2008-June 2014)
Created (with Tom Brennan) departmental works-in progress seminar (1985)
Departmental Hiring Committees. Chaired four (most recently 2007) involving four full time hires and two one-year hires; served on four other hiring committees.
Chaired Departmental PMP Selection Committee (2000)
Promotion and Tenure (Dept). Chaired AY2002, 2005; served AY1991, 2000);
Pay, Promotion and Tenure (Dept) served (AY1986, 1988)
Pay and Awards (Dept). Chaired (AY1999, 1997); served (AY1990),
History honors committee (chaired for class of 1997)
I have also chaired and served on the Bancroft Committee, chaired the Shifrin Committee, been course coordinator several times for HH205, chaired the Majors Committee several times, chaired works-in-progress, and have been on the Research and Sabbatical Committee, IDP, Organized with Shifrin Professor V.D. Hanson a series of distinguished military historians and a year long History Department colloquia on the state of military history as a a discipline (AY 2003).
Organized (AY 2007) History Faculty colloquia in which History Dept. military faculty discussed their activities and experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan.