The Black Death and Pastoral Leadership: The Diocese of Hereford in the Fourteenth Century

By Heath, Peter | The Catholic Historical Review, January 1997 | Go to article overview

The Black Death and Pastoral Leadership: The Diocese of Hereford in the Fourteenth Century


Heath, Peter, The Catholic Historical Review


The Black Death and Pastoral Leadership: The Diocese of Hereford in the Fourteenth Century. By William J. Dohar. [Middle Ages Series.] (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. 1995. Pp. xvi, 198. $32.95.)

The diocese of Hereford is a sufficiently compact area to entice a close examination of the impact of the Black Death upon the Church, not least because its episcopal records and the findings of a visitation carried out in 1397 have long been in print. In this book Dr. Dohar makes good use of these records as well as others to chart the progress of the plague visitation of 1348 through the area and to monitor its effects upon the parish clergy and the response of the bishops. His sketches of Bishops Trillek and Lewis Charlton and his assemblage and discussion of institution and ordination figures (which chiefly confirm wellknown trends) are useful, but his considerable knowledge is often betrayed by a lack of penetrating or enterprising research. Although Dr. Dohar repeatedly stresses the importance of the social and economic context in which the clergy found themselves, he offers no characterization of the area's social structure or of its economic basis. Parish churches are numbered but not valued; still less are their endowments explored to reveal how poor or rich they were and what proportion of revenue came from the glebe or from tithes and offerings, facts which might determine how they were affected by the changes which ensued from the Plague. We learn that many livings were appropriated, but we are told nothing about the nature of the vicarage which was ordained, nor are the dates of appropriation systematically disclosed. …

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