Benjamin Thompson is a medieval historian who specialises in the role of the church in society and politics between the Norman Conquest and the Reformation in England.
He is currently writing a book about the ‘alien’ priories, lands and monasteries in England owned by French abbeys as a result of the Conquest. These came under increasingly xenophobic scrutiny during the Hundred Years War, which provoked a public debate about the correct use of ecclesiastical resources. Their eventual confiscation – more than a century before the Dissolution of the Monasteries – established the legitimacy of the secular power’s intervention in re-ordering the church.
Dr Thompson has investigated these broad themes across a range of material. Recent articles have focused on the underlying ideology of the church in its relation to society and politics, for instance the tension between the clergy’s sense of difference from the laity based on their spiritual function of ministering to souls, and their practical integration into a society which embraced religious culture and practice, and in which they were powerful officials and landowners.
He explored the ‘polemic’ of ecclesiastical reform as part of the Somerville medievalists’ interdisciplinary research group’s second project: their book on Polemic: Language as Violence in Medieval and Early Modern Discourse was published in 2015: http://www.ashgate.com/isbn/9781472425089