Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

The Ford Lectures 2011

The Ford Lectures are the most prestigious series of lectures deliverd in History before the Unversity of Oxford. They are given annually over six weeks in Hilary Term by an invited lecturer. Over the years these have produced such standard text books as F.M. Stenton's  The First Century of English Feudalism 1066-1166 Alexander Hamilton Thompson's  The English Clergy and their Organization in the Later Middle Ages  and K.B. McFarlane's The Nobility in Later Medieval England. I heard at least part of James Campbell's series on the Anglo-Saxon state, R.R. Davies' on the first English empire of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and Christopher Dyer's on the late medieval economy.

The period chosen alternates between medieval, early modern and modern over a three year cycle. I attended again for the first time in several years in 2010 to hear Prof David Bates explore the concept of the Anglo-Norman Empire between the Conquest and 1204.

This year the lecturer is Prof. Peter Lake from Vanderbilt, and his theme is the pamphleteering of the Elizabethan period and how it was used and developed to mould public opinion. He stressed in his first lecture the need to look at Catholic history in the period not as a watertight compartment for specialists but for it to be integrated into the wider picture. At any point in the Elizabethan period the sudden death, or indeed the marriage, of the Queen could have brought the whole edifice of the poliico-religious settlement down, just as it had collapsed in 1553 and 1558. 

He plans to address such issues as 'image wars' and the way in which a propaganda piece could be adapted to different audiences at home and abroad, and is going to concentrate on the ways this revolved from 1568 until 1587 around Mary Queen of Scots. His aim is to publish a book covering a wider time frame of the whole of Queen Elizabeth I's reign. 

Mary, Queen of Scots, by an Artist of the Clouet School.

Queen Mary I of Scots

This promises to be a very interesting series of lectures which, hopefully, I shall manage to attend.

One thing was disappointing, but not to do with Professor Lake. In past years it was expected or assumed that the audience would be gowned for the occasion of the Ford Lectures. Last year when I turned up with my gown I found I was alone in being so attired apart from the Lecturer, and yesterday no-one in the audience was wearing an academic gown. The Clever Boy does not approve - but whether he will bother to be the odd man out remains to be seen next week.

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