Michael Clanchy

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Michael Thomas Clanchy FBA (28 November 1936 – 29 January 2021) [1] was Professor Emeritus of Medieval History at the Institute of Historical Research, University of London and Fellow of the British Academy.

Early life and education[edit]

Clanchy was born in Reading in 1936, the son of Henry, a Royal Navy captain from an Irish Catholic family, and Virginia, a New Zealander, and was educated at Ampleforth College.[2] He went up to Oxford to read History, matriculating at Merton College in 1956 and taking a second class degree three years later. After two years teaching at Presentation College, Reading, Clanchy returned to Merton in 1961, and was awarded his DipEd the following year.[3]


Clanchy became a lecturer at the University of Glasgow in 1964,[4] and was well known for his books, such as From Memory to Written Record (1979; revised and expanded editions 1993 and 2013: a study of the triumph of literacy in medieval England), England and its Rulers 1066–1272 (1983; revised editions 1998, 2006 and 2014), and Abelard: A Medieval Life (1997). His interests primarily lay in law and government in the 12th and 13th centuries. He was Patron of the London Medieval Society.[5]

In 1985 he left Glasgow, and moved to London; he took up an honorary position at Westfield College and taught at University College London, whilst continuing his research independently. This led to the publication of Abelard: A Medieval Life in 1997, on the strength of which he was elected as a Fellow of the British Academy in 1999.[4]

Clanchy appeared on In Our Time on BBC Radio 4, firstly in 2005 regarding Peter Abelard and Héloïse d'Argenteuil,[6] and secondly discussing Magna Carta in May 2009.[7] His work has been translated into a number of different languages, including French, German, Italian, and Norwegian.

Personal life[edit]

In 1963 Clanchy married Joan Milne, whom he had met whilst at University; they had a daughter and a son.[3][4][2]


  • "The franchise of return of writs", Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 5th ser., vol. 17 (1967)
  • "Did Henry III have a policy?", History, vol. 53 (1968)
  • Civil Pleas of the Wiltshire Eyre, 1249 (1971)
  • The Roll and Writ File of the Berkshire Eyre of 1248, Selden Society, vol. 90 (1973)
  • "Moderni in education and government in England", Speculum 58 (1975)
  • From Memory to Written Record: England 1066–1307 (Oxford, 1979); 2nd ed. 1993; 3rd ed. 2013
  • England and its Rulers, 1066–1272: Foreign Lordship and National Identity (London, 1983); 2nd ed. 1998; 3rd ed. 2006; 4th ed. 2014
  • "Looking back to the invention of printing", in D. P. Resnick (ed.), Literacy in Historical Perspective (Library of Congress, D.C., 1983)
  • Ranulf Glanvill, Tractatus de legibus et consuetudinibus regni Anglie qui Glanvilla vocatur, ed. and trans. G. Derek G. Hall with a guide to further reading by Michael T. Clanchy (Oxford, 1993)
  • Learning to Read in the Middle Ages and the Role of Mothers, Greg Books
  • Abelard: A Medieval Life (1997)
  • ed. Letters of Abelard and Heloise (2003)
  • "Law and theology in twelfth-century England: the works of Master Vacarius (c.1115/1120–c.1200)", Disputatio, vol. 10 (2006)
  • "Did mothers teach their children to read?", in Lesley Smith & Conrad Leyser (eds), Motherhood, Religion, and Society in Medieval Europe, 400–1400 (2011)
  • "Was Abelard right to deny that he had written a Book of Sentences?" Part 2, Controversy and Exchange, in Rethinking Abelard: A Collection of Critical Essays (Brill's Studies in Intellectual History, 2014)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Clanchy, Kate (30 January 2021). "This is thread for my father, Michael Clanchy, who has died aged 84". Twitter. Retrieved 30 January 2021.
  2. ^ a b "Professor Michael Clanchy obituary". The Times. Times Newspapers Limited. Retrieved 3 March 2021.
  3. ^ a b Levens, R.G.C., ed. (1964). Merton College Register 1900-1964. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. p. 476.
  4. ^ a b c d’Avray, David; Sabapathy, John. "Professor Michael Clanchy FBA (1936–2021)". University College London. Retrieved 9 February 2021.
  5. ^ "Professor Michael Clanchy MA, PhD (Reading), FBA. Institute of Historical Research". Retrieved 25 November 2014.
  6. ^ "In Our Time: Abelard and Heloise". BBC. 5 May 2005. Retrieved 9 February 2021.
  7. ^ "In Our Time: The Magna Carta". BBC. 7 May 2009. Retrieved 9 February 2021.

External links[edit]