The Religious Orders in Pre-Reformation England

The Religious Orders in Pre-Reformation England

The Religious Orders in Pre-Reformation England

The Religious Orders in Pre-Reformation England

Synopsis

It continues to be assumed in some quarters that England's monasteries and mendicant convents fell into a headlong decline - pursuing high living and low morals - long before Henry VIII set out to destroy them at the Dissolution. The essays in this book add to the growing body of scholarly enquiry which challenges this view. Drawing on some of the most recent research by British and American scholars, they offer a wide-ranging reassessment of the religious orders on the eve of the Reformation. They consider not only the condition of their communities and the character of life within them, but also their wider contribution - spiritual, intellectual and economic - to English society at large. What emerges is the impression that the years leading up to the Dissolution were neither as dark nor as difficult for the regular religious as many earlier histories have led us to believe. It was a period of institutional and religious reform, and, for the Benedictines at least, a period of marked intellectual revival. Many religious houses also continued to enjoy close relations with the lay communities living beyond their precinct walls. While their role in the devotions of many ordinary lay folk may have diminished, they still had a significant part to play in the local economy, in education and in a wide range of social and cultural activities. Contributors: JEREMY CATTO, JAMES G. CLARK, GLYN COPPACK, CLAIRE CROSS, PETER CUNICH, VINCENT GILLESPIE, JOAN GREATEX, BARBARA HARVEY, F. DONALD LOGAN, MARILYN OLIVA, MICHAEL ROBSON, R.N. SWANSON, BENJAMIN THOMPSON.

Excerpt

The essays in this book originated as papers presented to a colloquium on the religious orders in later medieval and pre-Reformation England that was held at the University of York in September 1999. The colloquium drew together many of the established and younger scholars currently working in this field and presented an opportunity — perhaps for the first time — to reassess the character of monastic and mendicant life in England in the century before the Dissolution. Without exception the papers generated lively and wide-ranging discussion and it is hoped something of the flavour of these sessions, of new discoveries being aired and new interpretations being tested, is retained as they appear in print.

Both the colloquium and the book that follows it were made possible only through the assistance of many colleagues. Professor David Smith lent material and practical support in mounting the colloquium under the auspices of the Borthwick Institute of Historical Research and the Monastic Research Bulletin. Dr Phillipa Hoskin also gave up much of her time to the day-to-day management of the event through her office at the Borthwick. I am especially grateful to Dr Joan Greatrex who has proved a constant source of sound advice and unflagging encouragement from the earliest beginnings of the project. She assisted in planning the programme of speakers for the colloquium and has continued to offer her help in the preparation of this book. I would also like to thank Miss Barbara Harvey for her advice and encouragement (often over very congenial teas) during the later stages of the work. Finally, I am grateful to Caroline Palmer at Boydell & Brewer, for her interest in the book and for all her efforts in seeing it through to publication.

James G. Clark King's Sutton December 2001 . . .

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