The Medieval Church in Scotland

By Burns, Charles | The Catholic Historical Review, October 1997 | Go to article overview

The Medieval Church in Scotland


Burns, Charles, The Catholic Historical Review


The Medieval Church in Scotland. By Ian B. Cowan. Edited by James Kirk. (Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press. 1995. Pp. xv, 254.25.00)

Co-ordinated scholarship has achieved a renaissance of Scottish historical studies: combined efforts have blossomed and fructified; fresh light has been shed on many chapters of Scotland's story and restimulated interest into her cultural past.

Obviously, an institution as fundamental as the medieval Church was near the heart of the enterprise. Everything about her ws not always transparent, but neither was the record totally opaque.This reassessment of facts with a view to narrating them dispassionately and lucidly, with truthful rigor and objectivity even at the cost of abandoning long-defended partisan positions, has amicably engaged academics of both the Calvinistic and Roman Catholic traditions.

Eminent among them was Professor Ian B. Cowan of Glasgow University, whose premature death has removed an acclaimed leader from the field of ecclesiastical history. We are deprived of a qualified, talented professional, boundless in energy and enthusiasm, endowed, above all else, with an endearing personality. It is so regrettable that his life was cut short, when his extensive investigation and acquired knowledge of primary sources, his accumulated expertise, might have burgeoned into something authoritative, original, and unsurpassable in quality.

In tribute to his memory, it was deemed appropriate to reprint a selection of Ian's contributions to various periodicals, all treating of topics united by a common theme, with the added advantage of providing a single index to diversely dispersed texts. Hence the volume The Medieval Church in Scotland, skillfully edited by James Kirk, consisting of twelve essays in which Professor Cowan had concerned his exploration of the institutional evolution of the Church from the twelfth until the fifteenth century.There is also a Foreword from the pen of Professor Gordon Donaldson, friend and mentor of Ian Cowan, and a Bibliography of his Works," contributed by Peter W Asplin, which in itself offers an eloquent testimonial to his prowess as a scholar. …

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