Dr Thomas W. Smith

Dr Thomas W. Smith


After reading History and studying for an MA in Medieval and Early Modern Studies at the University of Kent, I received my PhD from Royal Holloway, University of London in 2013. For the last year of my doctoral studies I was a Scouloudi Junior Research Fellow at the Institute of Historical Research. From 2013 to 2015, I held a Leverhulme Trust Study Abroad Studentship (postdoctoral) at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich, where I also taught as Dozent. Between 2015 and 2017, I was Lecturer in Medieval History at Trinity College, Dublin, where I also served as Director of the MPhil in Medieval History. I joined the School of History at Leeds as a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow in May 2017. I was elected Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 2017.

I am co-convenor of the Medieval History Research Seminar (with Professor Jamroziak).

Research interests

There are two major strands to my research. First, the high medieval papacy, in particular the role of external influence and consensus-driven politics in determining the decisions of popes. This informs my current Leverhulme project (see below) and was the topic of my first book, Curia and Crusade: Pope Honorius III and the Recovery of the Holy Land, 1216-1227 (Brepols, 2017), which received a Highly Commended award in the British Records Association Janette Harley Prize competition 2018. Second, the documentary and manuscript sources for the crusading movement, especially the regional reception and transmission of manuscripts containing crusade texts. I am particularly interested in how the regional reception and transmission of these texts offers us a glimpse into how monastic scribes engaged with the crusading movement from behind the walls of their cloisters as a form of "scribal crusading” - a new approach to the source base for the crusades that I have explored in articles in Traditio and Crusades and which I am currently developing in a monograph on the Letters of the First Crusade (forthcoming with Boydell in the Crusading in Context series). Together with Dr Susan Edgington, I am also working on a new critical edition of the Gesta Francorum Iherusalem Expugnantium, a neglected narrative account of the First Crusade traditionally attributed to “Bartolf of Nangis".

My Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship project (2017–20) explores 'The Rise of Papal Provisions in Thirteenth-Century England'. The system of papal provision was one of the main methods through which clergy were appointed (‘provided’) to ecclesiastical benefices in medieval Christendom. Through the wholesale provision of foreign, mostly Italian, clergy across medieval Europe, the popes aroused fierce contemporary opposition and xenophobia. In thirteenth-century England, the chronicler Matthew Paris fulminated that alien, and, in his opinion, worthless, clergy were carrying off an outrageous 60,000 marks per annum from their benefices – allegedly more than the king himself. This xenophobic hatred appears to have been widespread, and it found an outlet in England in the anti-foreign movement of 1231–2, when groups of armed men hunted down foreign clergy, physically assaulted some, abducted others, looted their grain and razed their barns to the ground. Papal provision still provokes fierce controversy among modern historians, most of whom follow medieval chroniclers in interpreting the system as nepotistic, predatory, and exploitative.

Yet the exponential growth of the system in the thirteenth century, which was driven by English petitioners and members of the papal familia alike, has arguably been misunderstood because this crucial period has never been subjected to detailed analysis. This project is the first to investigate the rise of papal provisions in any European kingdom during the thirteenth century. Utilizing the full range of extant sources, and informed by new approaches to ecclesiastical history, it aims to re-evaluate the character of the system and to arrive at a much more considered assessment of the extent of immigration through papal provision.


<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD Medieval History, Royal Holloway, University of London (2013)
  • MA Medieval Studies, University of Kent (2009)
  • BA (Hons) History, University of Kent (2008)

Professional memberships

  • Fellow of the Royal Historical Society (FRHistS)
  • Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • Member of the Society for the Study of the Crusades and the Latin East
  • Member of the Canterbury and York Society
  • Member of the Pipe Roll Society

Student education

I teach medieval ecclesiastical history and palaeography (with Professor Emilia Jamroziak). I am delighted to offer supervision of BA and MA dissertations on most aspects of high medieval ecclesiastical and political history.

Research groups and institutes

  • Medieval Studies