Professor David Luscombe

M.A., Ph.D., Litt.D., Hon. Litt.D., F.R.Hist.Soc., F.S.A.,F.B.A.

Department of History

Professor Emeritus of Medieval History


David Luscombe took his B.A. degree with Firsts in both Parts of the Historical Tripos in the University of Cambridge in 1959; he gained his PhD in Cambridge in 1964. He was a Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge in 1962-64 and a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge in 1964-72.

In 1972 he became Professor of Medieval History in the University of Sheffield. From 1995 to 2000 he was Leverhulme Personal Research Professor of Medieval History and was later Research Professor of Medieval History until the end of September 2003 when retirement was required under the University’s Statute. He has the degree of LittD from the University of Cambridge and of LittD honoris causa from the University of Sheffield.

He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1986. He has held visiting appointments in the University of Connecticut (1993) and All Souls College, Oxford (1994) and he has been British Academy Exchange Visitor in Canada (1991) and in Japan (1996).

Research interests

David Luscombe’s main interests lie in the history of medieval thought and religion from late antiquity to the end of the middle ages, particularly in the following areas: the writings of Peter Abelard and of other medieval scholars and thinkers; the history of the medieval schools and universities, and the history of medieval (and Dionysian) conceptions of hierarchy.

He has recently published a new edition from the manuscripts of the collected correspondence of Peter Abelard and Heloise, with a translation by Betty Radice revised by himself, in the series Oxford Medieval Texts.

For this publication he was awarded the British Academy Medal in 2014.

With Lisa Liddy and David Hey he has also recently published an edition of the Cartulary of Beauchief Abbey in Sheffield.

Professional activities

Public engagement

From 1990 to 1997 he was the Publications Secretary of the British Academy; in this time he launched a new series of British Academy Postdoctoral Fellows’ monographs and had the newly acquired responsibility to publish the proceedings of Academy research symposia in the Academy’s volumes of Proceedings; he was also a member of the Academy’s Committee on Academy Research Projects.

He was from 1992 to 1998 a member of the Joint Supervisory Committee of the British Academy and Oxford University Press for the New (now the Oxford) Dictionary of National Biography and also an Associate Editor with responsibility for philosophers and theologians 1100-1499.

He was General Editor of the 4th series of Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought from 1988 to 2004 (and Advisory Editor from 1983).

He has also been Chairman of the Medieval Texts Editorial Committee of the British Academy; this Committee publishes editions in the series of Auctores Britannici Medii Aevi, and is preparing also the Catalogue of Medieval Manuscripts of Latin Commentaries on Aristotle in British Libraries.

He was from 1997 to 2002 President of the International Society for the Study of Medieval Philosophy (SIEPM – the secretariat is now in Freiburg i. B. and was formerly in Louvain-la-Neuve, and briefly in Leuven, Belgium) and in this capacity he has presided over annual Colloquia held in different centres (Leuven/Louvain-la-Neuve 1998, Sofia 1999, Firenze/Pisa 2000; the colloquium planned for 2001 in Jerusalem had to be postponed until better times) and the quinquennial International Congress held in Porto in 2002.

Between 1994 and 2000 he was a member of the Commonwealth Scholarships and Fellowships Commission of the UK with responsibility for selecting Scholars and Fellows (both coming in and going out of the UK).

Between 1994 and 1996 he was a founder member of the Humanities Research Board of the British Academy. He was a member of the Editorial Board of The Oxford Dictionary of the Middle Ages.

He has extensive experience of the study of manuscripts in numerous libraries in England and abroad.