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Professor Peter Clarke BA, PhD (Manchester)

Professor in Ecclesiastical History, CMRC Director, semester 2

Professor Peter Clarke's photo

Professor Peter Clarke is a Professor of Ecclesiastical History at the University of Southampton.

His doctoral training was in the religious history of Later Medieval Europe, especially canon law and the papacy.

After completing his doctorate at Manchester under the late Prof. Jeffrey Denton in 1995, he spent three years in sunny Rome as a post-doctoral researcher studying medieval manuscripts and papal records in the Vatican Library and Archives. He then worked for two successive projects as a Research Associate in the Faculty of History at the University of Cambridge. The second project gave Peter more excuses to visit Rome in order to do further research in the Vatican Archives. After Cambridge, he was a Lecturer in Medieval History at the University of Bangor from 2005 before moving to Southampton in 2007.

Research interests

He is interested in papal power and canon, or church, law, and their impact on Western society in the later middle ages. His monograph, based on his doctoral thesis, focussed on a sanction of the Western Church called the interdict, which had the effect of closing churches and suspending religious rites usually for communities or regions, including kingdoms. It was often used by the papacy as a political weapon in its clashes with secular rulers. As a collective sanction, it raised important questions about medieval notions of community, including questions of collective guilt. The book examines how medieval canonists and theologians justified the sancion, and how the canon law of the interdict both shaped and was shaped by the sanction's operation in practice. His research interests have since moved on to the records of the papal penitentiary, the highest office in the later medieval Church concerned with matters of conscience. It issued special favours available only from the pope, which this office issued on his behalf, including marriage dispensation and absolution from grave sins such as killing clergy. The records of this office held in the Vatican have only been available to researchers since 1983, and even now can only be consulted and published with special Vatican permission. Peter and his research collaborator Patrick Zutshi have published extensively on these records, including a three-volume edition of the records concerning England and Wales (1410-1503) appearing in the Canterbury and York Society Series (2013-15). They plan an edition of the English and Welsh penitentiary records from 1503 to 1569. Peter's interests are thus increasingly moving into the early modern period and focussing on medieval religious continuities beyond the Reformation. 

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Book Chapters

  • Clarke, P. (Accepted/In press). Enforcing religious conformity in late medieval England: Lateran IV canon 21 and the church courts. In P. Clarke, & S. James (Eds.), Pastoral Care in Medieval England: Interdisciplinary Approaches (1st ed., pp. 143-157). Routledge.
  • Clarke, P. (Accepted/In press). Introduction. In P. Clarke, & S. James (Eds.), Pastoral Care in Medieval England: Interdisciplinary Approaches (1st ed., pp. 1-6). Routledge.
  • Clarke, P. (Accepted/In press). Canon and Civil Law. In C. Barrington, & S. Sobecki (Eds.), Cambridge Companion to Medieval Law and Literature Cambridge University Press.
  • Clarke, P. (Accepted/In press). Western canon law in the Central and Later Middle Ages. In H. Pihlajamaki, M. Dubber, & M. Godfrey (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of European Legal History (Oxford Handbooks). Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  • Clarke, P. D. (2015). Canon law. In The Routledge History of Medieval Christianity (pp. 77-89). Abingdon, GB: Routledge.
  • Clarke, P. D. (2015). Rivalling Rome: Cardinal Wolsey and dispensations. In Papal Authority and the Limits of the Law in Tudor England (pp. 1-100). (Camden Fifth Series). Cambridge, GB: Royal Historical Society / Cambridge University Press.
  • Clarke, P. D. (2013). Introduction. In P. D. Clarke, & A. J. Duggan (Eds.), Pope Alexander III (1159-81): The Art of Survival (pp. 1-12). (Church, Faith and Culture in the Medieval West). Farnham, GB: Ashgate.
  • Clarke, P. D. (Accepted/In press). Excommunication and interdict. In J. Wei, & A. Winroth (Eds.), The Cambridge History of Medieval Canon Law Cambridge, GB: Cambridge University Press.
  • Clarke, P. D. (2008). Interdict. In R. Benedetto, J. O. Duke, C. Lindberg, C. Ocker, & R. H. Weaver (Eds.), The New Westminster Dictionary of Church History (pp. 338). Louisville, USA: Westminster John Knox Press.
  • Clarke, P. D. (2008). Papal dispensations. In R. Benedetto, J. O. Duke, C. Lindberg, C. Ocker, & R. H. Weaver (Eds.), The New Westminster Dictionary of Church History (pp. 490-491). Louisville, USA: Westminster John Knox Press.
  • Clarke, P. (2005). Editorial preface. In P. Clarke (Ed.), Owens’s Historical Essays in Honour of Professor Jeffrey H. Denton The Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester.
  • Clarke, P. (2005). Two constitutions of Boniface VIII: an insight into the sources of the Liber Sextus. In P. Clarke (Ed.), Owens’s Historical Essays in Honour of Professor Jeffrey H. Denton The Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester.
  • Clarke, P. D. (2004). Innocent III, the Interdict and Medieval Theories of Popular Resistance. In F. Andrews, C. Egger, & C. M. Rousseau (Eds.), Pope, Church and City: Essays in Honour of Brenda M. Bolton (pp. 77-97). (The Medieval Mediterranean; No. 56). Leiden, Netherlands: Brill.
  • Clarke, P. D. (2004). The records of the papal penitentiary as a source for the ecclesiastical interdict. In A. Meyer, C. Rendtel, & M. Wittmer-Busch (Eds.), Päpste, Pilger, Pönitentiarie: Festschrift für Ludwig Schmugge zur 65. Geburtstag (pp. 411-433). Tubingen, Germany: Niemeyer.
  • Clarke, P. D. (2002). The growth of canon and civil law studies, 1070-1535. In R. Gibbs, & S. L'Engle (Eds.), Illuminating the Law: Medieval Legal Manuscripts in Cambridge Collections (pp. 22-38). (Studies in Medieval and Early Renaissance Art History). Turnhout, BE: Brepols.
  • Clarke, P. (2001). Twenty-four entries on each pope from Alexander III to Boniface VIII. In M. Walsh (Ed.), Lives of the Popes (pp. 134-166). London, GB: Salamander.


Pope Innocent III (1198-1216): Power, Politics and Pastoral Care (HIST1087) - Course leader
Sin and Society 1100-1500 (HIST2049) - Course leader
Alternative Histories: History and Literature (HIST3122) - Course leader and co-teacher
Medieval Love, Sex and Marriage (Special Subject: HIST3130-3131) - Course leader
Medieval Political Thought (MA option; HIST6062) - Course leader
Medieval and Renaissance Palaeography (MA course; CMRC6003) - Course leader and co-teacher

Areas where I can offer postgraduate supervision

I am keen to attract research students working on any aspect of church history in the later medieval West (1100-1500), especially the papacy, canon law, penance, popular piety and heresy. I am also interested in supervising students working on intellectual and university history, especially the doctrines of medieval canonists and theologians.

Professor Peter Clarke
Building 65 Faculty of Arts and Humanities University of Southampton Avenue Campus Highfield Southampton SO17 1BF United Kingdom

Room Number: 65/2079

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