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Name: Emma Vosper

PhD: Early Anglo-Saxon History

Thesis Title: Reforming the Early English Church: Bede and Archbishop Theodore


About Me: 

I studied History at the University of Leicester (2010-13) and received a fully-funded Postgraduate Research Scholarship with the Centre for the Study of the Viking Age (CSVA) to complete a Masters degree in Viking and Anglo-Saxon Studies at the University of Nottingham (2013-14). I received AHRC Midlands3Cities funding to begin my PhD at the University of Nottingham in September 2014. 


Thesis Description:

Bede (d. 735) was the most accomplished scholar to emerge from Anglo-Saxon England and his writings are our principal sources for its early history. The foremost development in Bede Studies in the last 20 years has been the recognition that his later texts set out a wide-ranging reform agenda. Anglo-Saxon England converted piecemeal to Christianity in the 7th century and by the 670s the nascent Church was beginning to falter. A series of initiatives to address structural and factional problems undertaken by Archbishop Theodore (d. 690) are described in Bede's Ecclesiastical History, and Bede subsequently argued for further changes in the early 8th century. My thesis will develop and contextualise Bede’s ‘reforming impulse’ by viewing it in light of Theodore’s actions. 

Bischoff and Lapidge (1994) discovered a series of biblical commentaries produced under Theodore at Canterbury, yet the commentaries remain largely unstudied, meaning that it is unclear to what extent Bede’s understanding of reform was shaped by Theodore’s radical remodelling of the Church half a century earlier. Bede's account of Theodore masks much of the Archbishop’s original intentions to suit Bede's own purposes. By comparing Bede’s works to the writings of late 7th-century Canterbury (and other primary sources associated with Theodore), I will study the similarities and differences between Bede and Theodore's aims to determine their individual and combined impact on reforming the English Church. 

The main objective is to contextualise and develop knowledge of Bede’s reform agenda. This will facilitate new understandings of Theodore’s archiepiscopate, Bede's career, and the relationship between these two figures. The project will also deepen our understanding of the history of the Anglo-Saxon Church in its formative years, appealing to a wide range of academic and non-academic audiences. 


Supervisors and Institution(s): 

Dr Peter Darby
Prof Joanna Story

Scholarly / Public Engagement Activities:



Other Research Interests:

  • Old English literature
  • Religious history 
  • The Viking Age and medieval Scandinavia 

Twitter: @EmmaVosper


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