Heresy and the Persecuting Society in the Middle Ages: Essays on the Work of R. I. Moore

By Nederman, Cary J. | The Catholic Historical Review, July 2008 | Go to article overview

Heresy and the Persecuting Society in the Middle Ages: Essays on the Work of R. I. Moore


Nederman, Cary J., The Catholic Historical Review


Heresy and the Persecuting Society in the Middle Ages: Essays on the Work of R. I. Moore. Edited by Michael Frassetto. [Studies in the History of Christian Traditions,Volume 129.] (Leiden: Brill. 2006. Pp. xii, 338. $139.00.)

Robert Moore enjoys the distinction of authoring not just one, but two, of the most influential (and controversial books) on medieval Europe of his generation: The Formation of a Persecuting Society (1987) and The First European Revolution (2001). Too often neglected is Moore's first major foray into the scholarly themes that would define his career, the 1977 volume The Origins of European Dissent.The present volume, despite its somewhat misleading title and subtitle (which perhaps suggests a different set of investigations), represents primarily an attempt to reexamine the themes of Moore's germinal work, especially concerning the sources and nature of medieval heretical movements.Although Moore's later contributions receive some attention as appropriate along the way (as in Edward Peters's chapter), The Origins of European Dissent is clearly the wr-text standing behind the book. Permit me also to emphasize that the collection is in no way a Festschrift for Moore, but rather contains a series of creative (and often critical) intellectual engagements.

The individual chapters composing the book thus hang together very well, illustrating both the strengths and limitations of Moore's general approach to heresy. Virtually all of the contributors focus on the origins and development of, and responses to, Catharism in southern Europe (and beyond, as Malcolm Barber argues) from the eleventh to fourteenth centuries. Moore had famously argued that the Cathars were a "home-grown" or indigenous movement within the West, in contrast with the view that they had been inspired by essentially Eastern heresies, especially the so-called Bogomils. Several of the chapters (including those by Daniel Callahan,Arthur Siegel, and especially Bernard Hamilton) return to this theme to dispute, or at any rate qualify, Moore's interpretation. These contributions provide a lively debate that scholars of heretical practices will find stimulating as well as informative.

Although it is difficult to single out any one chapter in this collection of learned essays, I must admit that I especially like and admire Susan Taylor Snyder's contribution, subtitled "The Blurry Border between Heresy and Orthodoxy.

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