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Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury (1120–70) is one of the iconic figures in British history – a man who most people have not only heard of, but also have an opinion on. Yet, despite the brutality of his murder, such opinions are not always positive. In fact, this medieval archbishop is an unusually divisive figure, and always has been.
As is often the case with (in)famous remarks attributed to prominent personages, there is some doubt about whether Winston Churchill ever did describe the traditions of the Royal Navy as comprising ‘nothing but rum, sodomy, prayers and the lash.’ Churchill himself reputedly denied that he had, confiding to his private secretary that ‘I never said it. I wish I had’ (p. 1).
Virtually every major male figure involved in England’s reformations was a product of one of England’s two universities, and biographers rightly recognise the importance of understanding people’s careers at Oxford and Cambridge to their later lives. Yet the institutional history of the universities themselves, especially Cambridge, has been neglected.
In 2017, many people around the world either celebrated or lamented the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. According to the standard narrative, on 31 October 1517, a young German monk named Martin Lütter nailed a set of theological theses for debate upon the door of the castle church in Wittenberg.
Many years ago, J. H. Overton drew a fine line between Non-Jurors on the one hand and Jacobites on the other. The former, according to Overton, were ‘in no active sense of the term Jacobites’ because they were ‘content to live peacefully and quietly without a thought of disturbing the present government’.
Brian Fitzgerald begins this timely, useful and extremely interesting book by stating what should be pretty obvious to scholars of medieval prophetic texts; that prophecy in the Middle Ages took a wide variety of forms, right across Europe and beyond.
Both in the number and quality of his writings, William of Malmesbury (c.1090-1142) has been widely recognised as one of the foremost contributors to the pronounced historiographical turn seen throughout the Anglo-Norman realm from the first decades of the 12th century onwards.
Francis Young’s Magic as a Political Crime in Medieval and Early Modern England makes an important contribution to both the historiography of political culture in medieval and early modern England and the historiography of magic. This book develops ideas from Young’s previous monograph English Catholics and the Supernatural, 1553–1829.
Since the turn of the millennium it has become increasingly common for general histories of magic and witchcraft to include a section on the phenomenon of magic in the contemporary western world, but the precise relationship between contemporary manifestations of magical belief and their historical antecedents is rarely explored.
This is the eight volume of the series on the archbishops of Canterbury, which began life with Ashgate and has now passed to Routledge, and Michael Hughes’ book does not disappoint. Randall Davidson is the third of the 20th century archbishops to be so treated (the 2015 volume on Michael Ramsey was the work of this reviewer), and the book adopts a similar approach to the others.