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Tom Forster

Biography:

My higher education began in the United States, where I studied Liberal Arts with a major in History of Art in Columbus, Ohio, achieving a 4.0 GPA. Later, I returned to the UK to read for a BA in Medieval and Early Modern History at Aberystwyth University. There, I won the Alun Lewis Memorial Prize for the best performance by a second-year undergraduate, the Joseph Hamwee Prize for the best performance by a third-year undergraduate, and the Alun G Davis Dissertation Prize for my study, 'Antiquity in Orderic Vitalis' Historia Ecclesiastica'. My BA studies were punctuated by a semester studying Latin and Greek Classics at UC Berkeley, California. During this time I also completed an intensive course in Byzantine Greek.

I came to Cambridge as James Pantyfedwen Scholar at Downing College to read for an MPhil in Medieval History. My MPhil dissertation, titled 'Fortuna in the historical works of Orderic Vitalis, William of Malmesbury, and Henry of Huntingdon', was awarded the K Wood-Legh Prize for the best dissertation submitted by an MPhil candidate in Medieval History.

I have continued at Cambridge to read for a PhD as AHRC-Selwyn Scholar. My doctoral thesis, 'Julius Caesar and Fortune in Twelfth-Century England', examines how twelfth-century historians developed a new analytical framework, predicated on fortune, which helped redefine understanding of the mechanics underpinning the temporal manifestation of providence. I contend that interrogation of fortune in this way helped some historians to theorise profound and remarkably early solutions to fundamental theological and philosophical issues relating to humanity's lot in our post-lapsarian state. These solutions predate, and in some cases outshine those proffered by the great rationalist theologians of the scholastic golden age.

Against the backdrop of these insights, the thesis also presents the first comprehensive study of Julius Caesar's place in the political thought of twelfth-century England. In an explanatory paradigm dominated by fortune, Caesar, the archetype of the fortunate man, began to embody the hopes and fears of political commentators.

This thesis hopes to help reverse scholarship's tendency to overlook medieval historical writing's significance as expositor of cutting-edge ethical, cosmological, and theological thought.

Research Interests

- Twelfth-century historiography and cosmology.

- Reception and utilization of the Latin classics in the twelfth century.

- English and wider European history ca. 1050-1270.

Other Professional Activities

Co-convener of Cambridge Central and Later Medieval Workshop (CALM)

Keywords

  • Medieval British History

Key Publications

'William of Malmesbury and fortuna', Journal of Medieval History (2017): http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03044181.2017.1391111