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Cambridge AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership - Student Profiles

Department: History
Supervisor: Dr P. R. Cavill
College: King's
AHRC subject area: History
Title of Thesis: Sanctuary in England after 1540


I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of York, and my MPhil in Early Modern History at the University of Cambridge. My dissertations for each of these degrees focused primarily on how we might be able to measure and assess the strength and nature of ‘dialogue’ between ruler and ruled. For my undergraduate dissertation, I explored conceptions of political authority during the reign of Edward IV through an analysis of the channels pursued by petitioners seeking redress for their grievances, and the changing attributes of these appeals within the fraught political context of the later fifteenth century. For my MPhil I explored the development of Henry VII’s feudal prerogatives, principally through the means by which the practice and implementation of these rights were formulated by early-Tudor lawyers. To this end, I explored the legal constructs of these prerogatives, and the relation these bore to the manner in which they were reanimated and subsequently enforced under the first Tudor monarch over those who held land directly of him.


My current research explores the concept of mercy in sixteenth century notions of justice, principally through an exploration of the changes wrought to privilege of sanctuary in this period. In 1540 an act was passed that substituted civic for ecclesiastical protection by enacting that all sanctuaries offering permanent asylum were to be abolished and replaced by eight designated sanctuary cities administered by crown officials. The history of these cities as an insight into royal encroachments on ecclesiastical and secular liberties and franchises—and administration under closer royal supervision—remains almost completely unexplored. More broadly, I am interested in how legal theory informs practice, and how and why sixteenth century jurists conceptualised mercy as a component part of due justice in the manner and form that they did. 

Other Professional Activities

Alongside my PhD research, I am working on the National Lottery Heritage Funded Project: ‘Beverley Minster—Place of Sanctuary since 937.’