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Thomas Becket

A Preliminary Bibliography

compiled by Carolyn Schriber

Interpretations of the great clash between Thomas Becket and Henry II of England have varied enormously. At one extreme, the 1964 movie Becket, starring Richard Burton as Becket and Peter O'Toole as Henry, exploited the rage and passion of the leading characters. Based on Jean Anouilh's play "Becket" , this Hollywood version portrayed Becket as a hard-drinking, wenching Anglo-Saxon opponent of the Norman monarch. At the other extreme, visitors to Canterbury itself are treated to a film version of Becket's life story in which even the fleas living in Becket's hair shirt sprout tiny wings and haloes after sipping from his saintly blood. For those more interested in history than melodramatics or metaphysics, I suggest the following:


Materials for the History of Thomas Becket. 7 vols. RS 67. Edited by James Craigie Robertson. London: HMSO, 1875-1885.

The good news here is that almost all of the materials necessary for the study of Becket have been edited and assembled in one collection. The bad news is that the materials are untranslated, which may limit their usefulness. The first four volumes contain the Latin biographies, including William of Canterbury's Miracularum gloriosi martyris Thomae Cantuariensis Archiepiscopi, Anonymous I, Edward Grim, and Herbert of Bosham. The last three volumes hold the correspondence.

Thomas of Canterbury. Opera Omnia. Edited by J.P. Migne. PL 190. Paris: Garnier Fratres, 1893.


English Historical Documents, vol. 2: 1042-1189, ed. David C. Douglas and G. W. Greenaway. London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1953.

Contains miscellaneous documents concerning the Becket Controversy.

Fitzstephen, William, The Life and Death of Thomas Becket. . . , trans. George Greenaway. London: Folio Society, 1961.
Also contains translated excerpts from Herbert of Bosham, Roger, a monk of Pontigny, and from the letters of John of Salisbury, Alexander III, and Gilbert Foliot.

Garnier's Becket [Vie Saint Thomas le Martyr de Cantorbire by Garnier of Pont-Sainte-Maxence], trans. Janet Shirley. London: Phillimore, 1975.

Schriber, Carolyn P. The Letter Collections of Arnulf of Lisieux. Lewiston: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1997.

Contains Arnulf's letters to Becket, Henry II, Alexander III, and the papal legates. The effects of the crisis can also be traced in letters concerning the bishops of England and the crowning of the Young King.

Barlow, Frank. Thomas Becket. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986.

Chalendard, Marie. Saint Thomas de Cantorbery: Thomas Becket, 1118­1170. Paris: Éditions du Cèdre, n.d.

David Knowles. Thomas Becket. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1971.

Winston, Richard. Thomas Becket. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1968.


Boussard, Jacques. Le comté d'Anjou sous Henri Plantagenêt et ses fils, 1151­1204. Paris: H. Champion, 1938.

___. Le gouvernement d'Henri II Plantagenêt. Paris: Librairie d'Argences, 1956.

Butler, John. The Quest for Becket's Bones: The Mystery of the Relics of St. Thomas Becket of Canterbury. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995.

Duggan, Anne. Thomas Becket: A Textual History of His Letters. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980.

Eyton, Robert William. Court, Household, and Itinerary of King Henry II. London: Taylor and Co., 1878.

Foreville, Raymonde. L'Église et la royauté en Angleterre sous Henri II Plantagenêt. Translated by Thomas Jones. Paris: Bloud and Gay, 1943.

___. Thomas Becket dans la tradition historique et hagiographique. London: Variorum Reprints, 1981.

Knowles, David. The Episcopal Colleagues of Archbishop Thomas Becket. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1951.

Morey, Dom Adrian, and Brooke, C. N. L. Gilbert Foliot and His Letters. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1965.

Schriber, Carolyn Poling. The Dilemma of Arnulf of Lisieux: New Ideas Versus Old Ideals. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990.

Smalley, Beryl. The Becket Controversy and the Schools: A Study of Intellectuals in Politics. London: Basil Blackwell, 1973.

Warren, Wilfrid Lewis. Henry II. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973.


Alexander, James W. "The Becket Controversy in Recent Historiograpy." Journal of British Studies 9 (1970): 1-26.

Brooke, Zachary N. "The Effect of Becket's Murder on Papal Authority in England." Cambridge Historical Journal 2 (1928): 213-228.

___. "The Register of Master David of London, and the Part He Played in the Becket Crisis," Essays in History Presented to R. Lane Poole (Oxford, 1927), 227-245.

Knowles, David, Duggan, Anne J., and Brooke, C. N. L. "Henry II's Supplement to the Constitutions of Clarendon." English Historical Review 87 (October 1972): 757-771.

McGurk, J. J. N. "Saint Thomas Becket, 1170­1970: Upon the Eighth Centenary of His Martyrdom." History Today 20 (December 1970): 833-839.

Walker, David. "Crown and Episcopacy under the Normans and Angevins." In Anglo- Norman Studies V: Proceedings of the Battle Conference, 1982, 220-333. Edited by R. Allen Brown. Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1983.

Copyright (C) 1997, Carolyn Schriber. This file may be copied on the condition that the entire contents,including the header and this copyright notice, remain intact.

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The contents of ORB are copyright © 1995-1999 Laura V. Blanchard and Carolyn Schriber except as otherwise indicated herein.