johnsontom-smI grew up in Ipswich, a somewhat out-of-the-way place. In 2007 I went to read History at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge. At the end of my first year there, I became fascinated by the social history of medieval England, and began to plot a career around this fascination.

Graduating in 2010, I went to pursue an MSt. in Medieval History at Magdalen College, Oxford. Here, I began to explore legal records — particularly those of the church — as a way to study the lives of ordinary people in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries; over the course of the year, this interest morphed into an interest in law itself as a part of those ordinary lives.

This interest formed the core of my PhD thesis research, which I began in 2011 under the supervision of John Arnold at Birkbeck, University of London. The thesis looked at how people in different localities across late-medieval England used the variety of law-courts at their disposal.

While I passed my viva in July 2014, I was unable to get an academic position. I spent the next nine months or so doing a variety of part-time work and odd-jobs, while making applications. One of these came off, and in October 2015 I started as a Junior Research Fellow at Emmanuel College, Cambridge.

I was only there for a single term, however, as soon after I started I applied for a job at the University of York — and much to my surprise, was offered it. I started in January 2016, and have worked there ever since, teaching and revising my doctoral work into a monograph.

In 2018-2019 during my sabbatical, I was a Fellow at the Davis Center for Historical Studies in Princeton University, for their theme “Law and Legalities”.