Living and Dying in England, 1100-1540: The Monastic Experience

Living and Dying in England, 1100-1540: The Monastic Experience

Living and Dying in England, 1100-1540: The Monastic Experience

Living and Dying in England, 1100-1540: The Monastic Experience

Synopsis

This is a fascinating account of daily life in Westminster Abbey, one of medieval England's most important monastic communities. It is also a broad scholarly exploration of some major themes in the social history of the Middle Ages by one of its most distinguished historians. Barbara Harvey exploits the exceptionally rich archives of the Benedictine foundation of Westminster to the full, offering numerous vivid insights into the lives of the Westminster monks, their pensioners, and their patrons. She examines their charitable practices, their food and drink, illness and death, the abbey servants and the institution of corrodies--a key aspect of the abbey's finances. Harvey sets her findings in the context both of other religious institutions and of the secular world. Full of color and interest, Living and Dying in England is a highly readable and authoritative contribution to medieval history.

Excerpt

The first version of this book was given as the Ford Lectures in the University of Oxford in Hilary Term 1989. I owe a debt of a special kind to Jennifer Loach and Joanna Innes, my colleagues in the History School at Somerville, who ensured in unobtrusive ways, but not without cost to themselves, that I had sufficient time in which to prepare. In revising the lectures, I have added substantially to each. Nevertheless, much of the original text survives, unchanged, and in consequence the sound of the human voice can sometimes be heard in the book. I hope that readers will not find this a difficulty.

The book will, I hope, shed light, as its title implies, on monastic life in England. But its purpose is quite as much to illumine the life of secular society to which monastic, and particularly Benedictine, life was, at many points, closely assimilated. I have tried to bring as large a number of monasteries as possible under contribution. Yet in each chapter the monks of Westminster have provided the principal case-study. I gratefully acknowledge the permission of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster to use, and cite, their muniments, and I am also indebted to Dr Richard Mortimer, Keeper of the Muniments, who has facilitated my work in this exceptionally rich archive in every possible way. Dr Mortimer, Mrs Enid Nixon, and Miss Christine Reynolds have ensured that my visits to the Muniment Room at the Abbey have been not only useful in scholarly terms, but also exceedingly enjoyable. I think also with gratitude of the welcome which I received from the late Mr Howard Nixon, formerly Librarian of Westminster Abbey, and the late Mr Nicholas MacMichael, formerly Keeper of the Muniments.

In writing the book, I have needed many different kinds of help and at every juncture have been fortunate enough to enjoy exactly the kind that I most needed. Dr Paul Slack has assisted at many points, but particularly as Chapter I, on charity, took shape. He has also read a substantial part of the final draft of the book. Professor David Conning, Director-General of the British Nutrition Foundation, spared time to discuss various aspects of nutrition with me. Miss Anne Halliday, also of this Foundation, made the first analysis of the data relating to the diet of the monks of Westminster that are summarized below, in Table 11.4, and has readily answered many questions from me about nutrition. I have benefited from Professor Christopher Dyer's unrivalled knowledge of medieval diet and of the archaeological evidence that is now essential for an understanding of this subject. Mr Jim Oeppen, of the Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure, and Miss Ros Walley analysed the mortality data relating to the monks of Westminster which are indispensable to Chapter . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.