Bruce O’Brien

Dr. Bruce O'Brien at Faroe Islands with Boat
Bruce O’Brien
Professor and Department Chair
Office: Monroe 215
Phone: 540-654-1477

Bruce O’Brien joined the Mary Washington faculty in 1990 from Yale University where he earned his Ph.D. He is primarily responsible for the Department’s offerings in ancient Greek and Roman history and medieval history. His special interest is England from the ninth to the twelfth centuries. His first book God’s Peace and King’s Peace: The Laws of Edward the Confessor (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999) examined the impact of the Norman conquest on English law. His second monograph, Reversing Babel: Translation among the English during an Age of Conquests, c. 850 to c. 1200 (University of Delaware Press, 2011), evaluates medieval England’s multilingualism and culture of translation. He is chair of the board and intellectual lead for Early English Laws, an international project to re-edit and translate all English legal texts written before Magna Carta. The project is a collaboration between the Institute of Historical Research (London) and the Centre for Computing in the Humanities at King’s College London. Most recently he has co-edited two books: in collaboration with Barbara Bombi (Kent), Textus Roffensis: Law, Language, and Libraries in Early Medieval England (Brepols, 2015), a collection of papers on one of the most important manuscripts for our understanding of law and language in medieval England, and in collaboration with Sonja Brentjes (Berlin) and Jens Høyrup (Roskilde), Narratives on Translations across Eurasia and Africa: From Antiquity to Modern Times (under review, 2020).  His article, “Conquest and the Law,” appeared in Conquests in Eleventh-Century England: 1016, 1066, ed. Laura Ashe and Emily Joan Ward (Boydell, 2020).  His chapter, “Justice,” will appear in High Medieval: Literary Cultures in England, ed. Elizabeth M. Tyler and Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, as part of the Oxford Twenty-First Century Approaches Series (Oxford University Press).


  • D., Yale University, 1990. History.
  • A., Yale University, 1984. History.
  • A., St. Olaf College, 1982. Creative Writing and Medieval History.
  • Manchester College Oxford, 1980-1981. Early Medieval History


FSEM 201: European History
HIST 121: Western Civilization I
HIST 297: History Colloquium
HIST 298: History Practicum
HIST 300: The British Isles from Prehistory to the Plague
HIST 331: History of Ancient Greece
HIST 332: History of Ancient Rome
HIST 341: Europe in the Middle Ages I
HIST 342: Europe in the Middle Ages II
HIST 451: History of Anglo-Saxon England
HIST 455: Forgery and History
HIST 476: Ireland and Britain during the Viking Age