Professor Lesley Smith

Fellow and Tutor in Politics and Senior Tutor; Professor of Intellectual History

Professor Lesley Smith is Senior Tutor at Harris Manchester College and a Fellow and Tutor in Politics.   She studied at the London School of Economics, Oxford University and the Pontifical Institute for Mediaeval Studies in Toronto.


Lesley is the HMC tutor in politics for the undergraduate degrees in Philosophy, Politics and Economics and History and Politics.  She teaches the first-year politics papers as well as core and optional papers in political theory for second- and third-year students.

As well as teaching politics for PPE, she teaches the Historiography and medieval papers for HMC History students.   She has also taught and examined the medieval papers in the Theology faculty.

She is a regular supervisor for MSt students in Medieval History and Medieval Studies.  She convenes the graduate Medieval Church and Culture seminar and is part of the steering group for the MSt in Medieval Studies and for Oxford Medieval Studies.

Her recent and current doctoral students are working on architectural representations in twelfth-century manuscripts;  the concept of synderesis in Bonaventure’s Itinerarium;  Leo IX and reform; and Humbert of Romans and the Franciscan Rule.

Research Interests:

The history of ideas, particularly in the medieval period.

Lesley works on the medieval Bible, as both a physical and intellectual object. This ranges from close technical work with manuscripts of Bibles, biblical commentary, theology and pastoralia, to the exposition of commentary and theology, to investigation of the intellectual milieu of the schools in which the Bible was studied – the people and the products of this early university system, from the twelfth century onwards. In particular, she explores the two-way link between the manuscript evidence and the intellectual evidence of these early schools – in modern terms, how technology affects what we learn and know, and vice versa. The study of the Bible has also led her to contribute to the study of medieval Jewish-Christian scholarship and relations.

She is currently at work on an experimental biography of William of Auvergne, thirteenth-century scholar and bishop of Paris, with the working title:  Fragments of a World: William of Auvergne and Thirteenth-Century Paris.

Recent publications

The Ten Commandments: Interpreting the Bible in the Medieval World, Studies in the History of Christian Traditions, 175 (Leiden & Boston: E. J. Brill, 2014).

The Glossa Ordinaria: the making of a medieval Bible commentary, Commentaria, 3 (Leiden & Boston: E. J. Brill, 2009).

‘From Knowledge to Beatitude’: St Victor, Twelfth-Century Scholars and Beyond, ed. with E. Ann Matter (Notre Dame: Notre Dame University Press, 2013); including essay, ‘Robert Amiclas and the Glossed Bible’, pp. 131-52.

Motherhood, Religion, and Society, 400-1400, ed. with Conrad Leyser (London: Ashgate, 2011); including essay, ‘Who is my mother? Honouring parents in medieval exegesis of the Ten Commandments’, pp. 156-72.

‘Glossed Bibles and Commentary:  the scaffolding of Scripture’, in The Visualization of Knowledge in Medieval and Early Modern Europe, ed. Marcia Kupfer, Adam Cohen, J. H. Chajes, Andrea Worm (Turnholt:  Brepols, forthcoming).

‘The End of a Single World:  the sacrament of extreme unction in scholastic thought’, in The End of the World in Medieval Thought and Spirituality, edited by Eric Knibbs, Jessica A. Boon, and Erica Gelser   (Palgrave McMillan, forthcoming)

‘The Ten Commandments in the Schools:  Conformity or Diversity?’, in The Ten Commandments in Medieval and Early Modern Culture, ed. Youri Desplenter, Jürgen Pieters, Walter Melion (Leiden:  E. J. Brill, 2017), pp. 13-29.

‘Books of Theology and Bible Study’, in The European Book in the Long Twelfth Century, ed. Erik Kwakkel and R. M. Thomson (Cambridge: CUP, 2018), pp. 192-214.

‘The Friars and the Preparation of Pastoral Aids’, in The English Province of the Franciscans, ed. Michael Robson (Leiden:  E. J. Brill, 2017),  pp. 175-92.

‘Continuity and Change in the Study of the Bible: the Ten Commandments in Christian Exegesis’, in Jews and Christians in Thirteenth-Century France, ed. Judah Galinsky and Elisheva Baumgarten (NY:  Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).

‘Job in the Gloss’, in The Brill Companion to Job in the Middle Ages, ed. Aaron Canty and Franklin T. Harkins (Leiden: E. J. Brill, forthcoming 2016).

‘Uncertainty in the Study of the Bible’, in Uncertain Knowledge in the Middle Ages, ed. Nicolette Zeeman, Kantik Ghosh, Dallas Denery (Turnhout: Brepols, 2014).

‘Nicholas of Lyra’, in The Oxford Guide to the Historical Reception of Augustine, ed. Karla Pollman, with Willemien Otten, et al. (Oxford: OUP, 2013), pp. 1147-48.

‘The Glossed Bible’, in The New Cambridge History of the Bible. 2: The Bible from 600-1450, ed. Richard Marsden and E. Ann Matter (Cambridge: CUP, 2012), pp. 363-79.

‘The Imaginary Jerusalem of Nicholas of Lyra’, in Imagining Jerusalem in the Medieval West, ed. Lucy Donkin and Hannah Vorholt (London: OUP for The British Academy, 2012), pp. 77-96.

‘Hugh of St Cher and Medieval Collaboration’, in Transforming Relations: Essays on Jews and Christians throughout History in Honor of Michael A. Signer, ed. Franklin T. Harkins (Notre Dame: Notre Dame University Press, 2010), pp. 241-64.

‘Abelard’s Description of the School of Laon: what does it tell us about early-scholastic teaching?’, with M. T. Clanchy, Nottingham Medieval Studies, 54 (2010), pp. 1-34.


Contact Details
Postal Address
Harris Manchester College
Mansfield Road
United Kingdom