Michael Prestwich

Last updated

Michael Prestwich
Born (1943-01-30) 30 January 1943 (age 81)
Nationality British
Academic background
Notable worksPlantagenet England, 1225-1360 (2005)
Website www.dur.ac.uk/m.c.prestwich/CV.htm

Michael Charles Prestwich OBE (born 30 January 1943) is an English historian, specialising on the history of medieval England, in particular the reign of Edward I. He is retired, having been Professor of History at Durham University and Head of the Department of History until 2007.


Early life and education

Prestwich is the son of two Oxford historians, John Prestwich and Menna Prestwich. His father, "the redoubtable mediaevalist ... who knew so much and published so little", had worked at Bletchley Park during the war, working among other things on the breaking of U-boat codes. [1] Michael was educated at the Dragon School in Oxford, and then went to a well-known public school Charterhouse, before winning a scholarship to Magdalen College, Oxford. After being awarded an MA and First in History, he completed his D.Phil. with a thesis entitled Edward I's wars and their financing 1294-1307 at Christ Church, Oxford.[ citation needed ]

Academic career

After a year as a lecturer at Christ Church, Michael moved in 1969 to St Andrews where he stayed for ten years before moving to Durham as a Reader. He soon became Professor, and has been head of the department for two spells. For seven years in the 1990s he was Pro Vice-Chancellor, with a wide brief which even extended to health and safety. He was chairman of the trustees of the Durham Union Society until 2013. He twice chaired the History panel for the Research Assessment Exercise, in 1996 and 2001. [2]

Prestwich has provided support and encouragement to other historians, in particular Ann Hyland, who recognised his assistance in her work on medieval warhorses. [3] Prestwich wrote the foreword for both of her books on the subject. On his retirement, he was presented with a festschrift, War, Government and Aristocracy in the British Isles c.1150-1500, edited by Chris Given-Wilson, Ann Kettle and Len Scales.

Prestwich was appointed OBE in the 2010 New Year Honours. [4]

Biography of Edward I

Prestwich's 1988 biography of Edward I received much praise for being a thorough and professional work, the first biography of Edward for twenty years. According to historian JH Denton, its scope could leave the reader "breathless" while the analysis was often "brilliantly incisive". [5] Fred Cazel's view of Edward was close to that of Prestwich, but he raised the question of whether it was right to judge Edward in a contemporary manner. [6] Several reviewers noted that the book's strengths included administrative and financial aspects of Edward's rule, [7] [8] its command of the sources, [8] and Prestwich's attempt at balance including presenting different sides of controversial topics discussed. Several reviewers felt that there was not enough discussion of the social condition of England. [7] Another area of criticism was that Edward I was sometimes let off the hook for his bad decisions. [7] Denton highlighted his invasion of Scotland as a poor decision, and felt that the book gave too even an impression of the quality of his reign. [9] GWS Barrow felt that some important topics, including Edward's De donis and Quia emptores laws, along with Anglo-Welsh and Welsh law, were dealt with too quickly. While Scottish aspects were generally covered well, Prestwich was in his view too lenient, not fully recognising Edward's opportunism and ability to ignore previously stated promises. The determination of Scottish resistance was also in his view underestimated. [10] It was also criticised for devoting little space to the approach of Edward to Jewish issues, devoting less than three out of 567 pages to the topic, despite what reviewer Colin Richmond describes as Edward's "pioneering antisemitism". [11] [12]

Personal life

He is married to fellow Oxford-educated historian Maggie Prestwich, who recently retired as Senior Tutor at Trevelyan College, Durham. He lives in Western Hill in Durham, and has a dog and three grown-up children. He retired in 2008.[ citation needed ]

Select publications


J.O. Prestwich, The Place of War in English History, 1066-1214 (2004) Woodbridge: Boydell Press ISBN   1-84383-098-1


  1. Mirzoeff 2015:30
  2. Home page Archived 2010-06-10 at the Wayback Machine
  3. Acknowledgements, p V, The Warhorse 1250-1600, and p VII, The Medieval Warhorse: From Byzantium to the Crusades, both by Ann Hyland
  4. "No. 59282". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2009. p. 11.
  5. Denton 1989, p. 984.
  6. Cazel 1991, pp. 226–7.
  7. 1 2 3 Lyon 1989, p. 290.
  8. 1 2 Barrow 1989, p. 206.
  9. Denton 1989, p. 983.
  10. Barrow 1989, pp. 206–8.
  11. Richmond 1992, p. 45.
  12. Stacey 1990, p. 307.


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