Michael Hicks (born 1948) is an English historian, specialising on the history of late medieval England, in particular the Wars of the Roses, the nature of late medieval society, and the kings and nobility of the period.
Hicks studied under Charles Ross while a final-year undergraduate student at the University of Bristol (1969–70), T. B. Pugh for his M.A. at Southampton (1971), and C. A. J. Armstrong for his DPhil. at the University of Oxford (1975), which he had originally began under J. R. L. Highfield. In his own words, his research was – and remained – firmly placed within "the school of history founded by the late K.B. McFarlane... the Master" although with a heavy "biographical bent". His first published article, however, was on an aspect of law in the seventeenth century. Having worked for the Victoria County History project between 1974 and 1978, he joined King Alfred's College, Winchester, later the University of Winchester. A proposed joint paper with his former tutor, Charles Ross, on bastard feudalism had come to nothing by 1978, and a suggestion by Gerald Harriss for a joint study with Christine Carpenter, Michael Hicks and himself "foundered on [their] incompatible points of view".
Originally firmly wedded to the McFarlane understanding of bastard feudalism, in which the nobility were motivated almost solely by financial and material interests, in which "self-interest, self-advantage, and self-preservation featured largely", this perspective gradually evolved, by the last decade of the twentieth century, into a more "complex" understanding of the English nobility, in which their piety and religious belief, idealism and individuality are as important motives in "high politics" as material benefit. In a 2014 interview with Royal Studies Journal, he opined that, until recently, "all History was political"; but noted that there was an increasingly thematic trend to historical research.
Eventually Professor of Medieval History and Head of Department at the University of Winchester until his retirement, he was appointed Emeritus Professor in September 2014. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and the reviews editor for the peer-reviewed Southern History journal. It has been calculated that in the thirty-five year period to 2013 he published seventy-five articles and full-length studies, averaging over two per year. As of 2012, his most recent work has centred on the Inquisitions post mortem, and he is now principal investigator on a project "dedicated to creating a digital edition of the medieval English inquisitions".
Interviewed by the BBC in September 2012, amid the "upsurge of interest" in Richard III and the attempts of the Richard III Society campaign to rehabilitate the dead king, Hicks commented that the society had members "who contain an extreme and romantic view" of Richard III, and that whilst they publish work of scholarship in his defence they have not succeeded in overturning the long-held historiographical consensus regarding the king's best-known controversy, the fate of his nephews in the Tower of London. Indeed, he went so far as to cast doubt that the bones discovered in Leicester were actually those of the king, saying "lots of other people who suffered similar wounds could have been buried in the choir of the church where the bones were found" (thus disregarding the DNA evidence). Elsewhere, however, he called the popular English television series The White Queen's portrayal of the people and time "useful and informative".
A festschrift for Michael Hicks was published in 2015 by Boydell and Brewer, and included contributions from academic colleagues and past students. Of the former these included Caroline Barron, Anne Curry, Ralph A. Griffiths, Christopher Dyer, Tony Pollard, and James Ross. Of his former students, Gordon McKelvie, Jessica Lutkin, and Karen Stober all contributed, as did the editor of the journal The Ricardian, Anne F. Sutton.