OLH publication on the history of Becket’s name features in The Times

Posted by Paula Clemente Vega on 5 April 2023

We are very pleased to say that an article published in the Open Library of Humanities journal has been recently featured in The Times. The article in question, “Who Put the ‘a’ in ‘Thomas a Becket’? The History of a Name from the Angevins to the Victorians” by John Jenkins, examines the history of Becket’s name since the 12th century.

In The Times piece Jack Blackburn says:

"Thomas Becket was known as a troublesome priest — or at least he was when it came to what to call him. Millions will insist his name was a letter longer, but, adamant though some pedants are, no one has ever been sure who put the 'a' in Thomas a Becket.

However, a historian has now traced its origins and discovered that, far from being a harmless affectation, the 'a' was a Protestant slur designed to undermine the Catholic's santly status.  What is more, its use appears to have been inspired by the tales of Robin Hood.

Dr John Jenkins, from the University of York, who published his research in Open Library of Humanities, says the 'a' was the final part of a 16th century smear campaign."

You can read The Times article here. Please note that the publication is behind a paywall and a subscription will be required to access it in full. However, the fully open access article is available to read by clicking below.

Jenkins, J., (2023) “Who Put the ‘a’ in ‘Thomas a Becket’? The History of a Name from the Angevins to the Victorians”, Open Library of Humanities 9(1). doi: https://doi.org/10.16995/olh.9353