What do we think about Thomas More? – Professor Peter Marshall FBA, University of Warwick
Thomas More is one of the very few sixteenth-century commoners of whom almost all educated people have heard. He is the hero of one of the twentieth century’s most acclaimed historical films, and the villain of one of the twenty-first century’s most acclaimed historical novels. He is a well-documented figure of considerable significance in his own day, but one who has subsequently acquired near-mythological status, is venerated across the world as a saint, and condemned by many as a cruel persecutor.
In this lecture, Peter Marshall – currently writing a short book about More – will review the controversies about Thomas More’s actions and opinions, and offer insight into why, five hundred years after his death, he remains a compelling and divisive historical figure. Avoiding the twin temptations of hagiography and hatchet-job, the lecture will seek rather to evaluate More as a case-study in the moral challenges of listening to the past, and allowing it to speak truth to the present.
Peter Marshall is Professor of History at the University of Warwick, where he has taught since 1994. He is a Fellow of the British Academy, and a former editor of the English Historical Review. He has written widely on the religious and cultural life of early modern Europe, particularly the British Isles, and his books include Religious Identities in Henry VIII’s England (2006), Mother Leakey and the Bishop: A Ghost Story (2007), and Heretics and Believers: A History of the English Reformation (2017), winner of the 2018 Wolfson History Prize. In addition to his work on Thomas More, he has recently completed a study of the Orkney Islands in the early modern period, to be published in 2024.