Patronage, Power, and Masculinity in Medieval England : A Microhistory of a Bishop's and Knight's Contest over the Church of Thame book cover
1st Edition

Patronage, Power, and Masculinity in Medieval England
A Microhistory of a Bishop's and Knight's Contest over the Church of Thame

  • Available for pre-order on February 17, 2023. Item will ship after March 10, 2023
ISBN 9781032290744
March 10, 2023 Forthcoming by Routledge
280 Pages 9 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

The book investigates a riveting, richly documented conflict from thirteenth-century England over church property and ecclesiastical patronage.

Oliver Sutton, the bishop of Lincoln, and John St John, a royal household knight, both used coveted papal provisions to bestow the valuable church of Thame to a familial clerical candidate (a nephew and son, respectively). Between 1292 and 1294 three people died over the right to possess this church benefice and countless others were attacked or publicly scorned during the conflict. More broadly, religious services were paralyzed, prized animals were mutilated, and property was destroyed. Ultimately, the king personally brokered a settlement because he needed his knight for combat. Employing a microhistorical approach, this book uses abundant episcopal, royal, and judicial records to reconstruct this complex story that exposes in vivid detail the nature and limits of episcopal and royal power and the significance and practical business of ecclesiastical benefaction.

This volume will appeal to undergraduate and graduate students alike, particularly students in historical methods courses, medieval surveys, upper-division undergraduate courses, and graduate seminars. It would also appeal to admirers of microhistories and people interested in issues pertaining to gender, masculinity, and identity in the Middle Ages.

Table of Contents

1. The Contestants, the Diocese, Episcopal Governing, and Thame 2. The Contest Begins: The First Attack (And Failure) 3. The Second Attack: Its Success (And Ultimate Failure) 4. The Third Attack: The Symbolic Shaming of Clerics 5. From Stalemate to Checkmate: The Bishop’s Propaganda War and Starvation-Siege 6. A Settlement: Arbitration, Compromise, and ‘Pro Conservacione Fame

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Andrew Miller is an adjunct professor of history at DePaul University, US. His research interests include the social and religious history of the Middle Ages and violence and masculinity in medieval England.


‘Miller thoroughly reconstructs a little-known, rollicking medieval conflict and its context. Readers will get an on-the-ground view of matters like how a royal knight, his son, and their thugs went about besieging a church and how a bishop deployed his own bully boys in response, or how a bishop dealt with the geographical contours of his diocese while managing such a conflict. But Miller also takes readers into flight for a bird’s-eye view of larger structures, such as those of church, crown, and gender. I suspect Bishop Oliver Sutton and his opponents John and Edward St. John will be better known than at any time since the late thirteenth century as a result of this entertaining book’

Michael Burger, Auburn University at Montgomery, USA.    

Two households with their retainers did battle (symbolic and literal) in the 1290s over the control of a church. Although one of the households was a bishop’s, this was not a struggle between church and state, but rather between two networks of alliance, both asserting their piety and their manliness, and trying to wrangle royal support. It’s a rare privilege to have this much documentation for a single case and be able to weave such a detailed narrative. The context is explained with the clarity students need, but the argument is original and important for scholars as well.

Ruth Mazo Karras, Lecky Professor of History, Trinity College Dublin