Date

5-6-2020

Description

For a period of time, Thomas à Becket, Thomas Wolsey, and Thomas More each served both the Roman Catholic pope and king of England, simultaneously possessing secular and spiritual power, with all of the complexity and contradiction that this entailed. Despite their similar positions, the historical legacies of these men differ drastically. More and Becket, although separated by over three hundred years, are often categorized together, even twinned, due to their deaths at hands of their kings and posthumous canonization; conversely, Wolsey and More are occasionally compared, as rough contemporaries. This study addresses a significant limit to the existing literature by uniquely comparing the three men and their respective legacies together; while simultaneously analyzing the failure of historians of religion and historians of politics, as well as medievalists and early modernists, to talk across their respective subfields. Moreover, this study privileges Wolsey in a way that other scholars have not, analyzing the appropriateness and accuracy of separating him from his predecessor Becket and successor More, and, at the same time, shedding new light on the other two Thomases by way of comparison. Relying on methods of political history, religious history, memory studies, and postmodernism, this study argues that for all three men, their iconic status as either a saint or a villain functions to obscure, rather than illuminate, their historical significance. Over time, these tropes have come to dominate public consciousness, crystallize certain narratives, and shape scholarly inquiry.

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May 6th, 12:00 AM

The Divided Consciousness: A Historiographical Analysis of Thomas Becket, Thomas Wolsey, and Thomas More

For a period of time, Thomas à Becket, Thomas Wolsey, and Thomas More each served both the Roman Catholic pope and king of England, simultaneously possessing secular and spiritual power, with all of the complexity and contradiction that this entailed. Despite their similar positions, the historical legacies of these men differ drastically. More and Becket, although separated by over three hundred years, are often categorized together, even twinned, due to their deaths at hands of their kings and posthumous canonization; conversely, Wolsey and More are occasionally compared, as rough contemporaries. This study addresses a significant limit to the existing literature by uniquely comparing the three men and their respective legacies together; while simultaneously analyzing the failure of historians of religion and historians of politics, as well as medievalists and early modernists, to talk across their respective subfields. Moreover, this study privileges Wolsey in a way that other scholars have not, analyzing the appropriateness and accuracy of separating him from his predecessor Becket and successor More, and, at the same time, shedding new light on the other two Thomases by way of comparison. Relying on methods of political history, religious history, memory studies, and postmodernism, this study argues that for all three men, their iconic status as either a saint or a villain functions to obscure, rather than illuminate, their historical significance. Over time, these tropes have come to dominate public consciousness, crystallize certain narratives, and shape scholarly inquiry.