Merle is a Ph.D. candidate focusing on the social, cultural, and religious history of late antiquity and the early middle ages.
His dissertation studies the revolutionary transformation of how Christianity became the primary identity for individuals and society in the Early Medieval West. It argues that Roman and Christian identities, previously bound together, separated from the 450s C.E. onward in southern Gaul. This occurred due to changes both in governance, which restructured socio-economic relations in law, money, and patronage, and Christianity itself, which democratized its appeal to a broader audience through mass communication. Drawing on untapped sermons, hagiographies, and material culture evidence, this project reconstructs the creation of the ideological framework of being Christian not as a rupture, but as alteration in the social imagination of the world and the socio-economic bonds connecting it.
In addition, Merle is a participant in the digital humanities project Framing the Late Antique and Early Medieval Economy. This project seeks to understand changes in the late and post-Roman economy by focusing on transformations in the minting and circulation of money.
Merle completed his general exams in May 2014 with a major field in The Early Medieval World (Helmut Reimitz) and minor fields in Europe in the High Middle Ages (William Chester Jordan) and Society and Identity in the Late Antique East (John Haldon and Jack Tannous). Merle received an M.A. in Medieval History with Distinction from King's College London in 2011 and a B.A., in History and Government, summa cum laude from Colby College in 2007. In the intervening years, he worked in politics.