The Baxandall Lecture
"An Archbishop at the End of Time: Politics and Episcopal Power c. 1000"
Date: Tuesday 5 March 2024
Location: Robinson College, Cambridge
Speaker: Professor Catherine Cubitt
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This lecture looks at the role of Archbishop Wulfstan II of York – politician, preacher and legislator – in the governance of the English kingdom in the early eleventh century. This was a time of the greatest turbulence and catastrophe: England had been wracked by Viking raids since the 990s, it was beset by ravaging and plunder, famine and plague and political treachery. For Wulfstan these disasters signalled the approaching end of the world. In 1014, the English king Æthelred the Unready (978-1016) was driven out. He was quickly restored but the ensuring period was marked by more defeats and civil war and, on his death in 1016, the Danish conqueror, Cnut ascended to the throne. At this time of insecurity and turmoil, Archbishop Wulfstan came to the fore, drafting lawcodes to restore Christian order and brokering the succession of Cnut. This lecture will address the question of how Wulfstan was able to take charge and the religious and political ideas which underpinned his leadership.
Speaker bio: Professor Catherine Cubitt is Professor Emerita of Medieval History at the University of East Anglia, and currently Baxandall Visiting Fellow at Robinson College. Before moving to East Anglia in 2016, she worked at the University of York. She was President of the Ecclesiastical History Society and a council member of the Royal Historical Society. Her work has focused on the role of bishops and councils in the early Middle Ages, primarily in England. She is interested in the role of bishops not only in the church but also in the early medieval political sphere, particularly their ability to shape political culture, especially ideas of kingship and the kingdom as a Christian community.
The Baxandall Lecture is made possible by a generous gift from Dr Leigh Baxandall (Natural Sciences - Physical, 1979).