Merle studies Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, with an emphasis on how rulers, clerics, and elites used and reapplied the tools, institutions, and social imaginations of the late Roman past to create a medieval future. He is interested not only in how people articulated political ideology and religious belief, but also how they exercised governance and practiced Christianity.
His dissertation, “Building Little Romes: Christianity, Social Relations, and Governance in Late Antique Gaul” examines how people began to reimagine and construct their polities by creating localized centers, rather than focusing upon a global Roman Empire. It argues that individuals built competing regional centers as an outcome of disputes over ethnic boundaries, religious practice and conflict, and economic power at the end of the empire. For his research, he has been awarded a Princeton Dean’s Completion Fellowship and is a Fellow at the Center for the Study of Religion.
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. Other topics of interest include the law, patronage, and the creation of ecclesiastical jurisdictions.
Merle is currently teaching his own course, “Western Civilization to 1648,” at Mercer County Community College as an inaugural Princeton-MCCC teaching fellow. He has also precepted for “The World of Late Antiquity.”
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). He previously 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.