1st Edition

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

By Andrew Miller Copyright 2023
    268 Pages 9 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    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.

    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


    Andrew G. Miller is a Teaching 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. He was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, September 2023.

    ‘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, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland

    'This volume tells a fascinating medieval story, using it to illuminate in new ways conflicts between bishop and king by putting their dispute over the church of Thame into a broader cultural as well as legal context' - Philippa Hoskin, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, UK

    ‘As its title suggests, Patronage, Power, and Masculinity in Medieval England, deals with big themes. It does so by unravelling an intricate web of relations in 1290s Oxfordshire, around the patronage of the church of Thame. Men - lay and clerical - used a whole range of tactics to secure their claim: they petitioned, enlisted powerful patrons, threatened, cursed, and used force. Like the best microhistories, Andrew Miller's analysis reveals the structures of power, the interweaving of church and state, family and lordship, and the vulnerability of those who worked the land’ - Miri Rubin, Queen Mary University of London, UK