Dr Krisztina Ilko

I currently serve as Junior Research Fellow and Director of Studies in History of Art at Queens’. I specialise in the Middle Ages, with recent articles published in Gesta (2023), The English Historical Review (2023, forthcoming), and Speculum (2024, forthcoming).


My research project, ‘The Pawns of History: A New Approach Towards the Global Middle Ages,’ uses the game of chess and surviving chess pieces to find a tangible approach towards the global medieval past. In contrast to previous histories which have focused on the development of gameplay, my project employs chess to study cross-cultural communication in the Afro-Eurasian world between 800 and 1400. Scholars have often approached the multicultural Middle Ages either through its connectivity or as a period of barrier making and cultural difference. Chess, however, opens up the possibility to trace interconnectivity between different geographies, cultures, and social strata, but also show how the same connections could be used to create separation and distinctiveness. The primary goal is therefore a critical rethinking of wider processes, practices, and products of cross-cultural interaction. Ultimately, my project addresses how the ‘global’ was experienced in the medieval era, and contributes to broader discussions about how the Middle Ages overlaps but also differs from the modern global world.

My scholarship has been generously supported by, amongst others, the Royal Historical Society (RHS), the British Academy, the International Center of Medieval Art (ICMA), the Italian Art Society (IAS), AHRC, the Francis Haskell Memorial Fund of The Burlington Magazine Foundation, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Delaware Valley Medieval Association, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, the University of Toronto, the University of Oxford, Trinity College, Oxford, Pembroke College, Cambridge, Kettle's Yard, and the History of Art Department at Cambridge.

  • Junior Research Fellow