Church and Society in the Medieval North of England

By Dahmus, John W. | The Catholic Historical Review, April 1998 | Go to article overview

Church and Society in the Medieval North of England


Dahmus, John W., The Catholic Historical Review


Church and Society in the Medieval North of England. By R. B. Dobson. (Rio Grande, Ohio: Hambledon Press. 1996. Pp. xvi, 323. $60.00.)

This volume contains thirteen articles previously appearing from 1965 to 1992 and all concerned with the history of the Church in northern England; the focus of all but two articles is the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

In his introduction Dobson observes that the records of the northern church are uneven, little surviving from the diocese of Carlisle, a rich repository from the prior and chapter at Durham, and a complete set of archiepiscopal registers from York. In the first article he appropriately compares the cathedral cities and their chapters (secular canons in New York, Benedictines at Durham, and Augustinian canons at Carlisle).

Dobson notes that it is often difficult to discover in medieval documents the individual monk or bishop; nevertheless, he is able to shed considerable light on the life of Richard Bell, prior of Durham and later bishop of Carlisle, and he presents an incisive analysis of the reasons for the failure of Archbishop Alexander Neville of York (removed in 1388). In discussing the c. 1070 origins of Selby, the first Norman abbey in northern England, Dobson also shows his ability to sift fact from legend.

The articles complement and intersect well with one another. Two adjacent articles study the church of Durham's relations with Scotland-the failure of Bishop Fordham to appear at the English defeat at Otterburn in 1388 and the monks' loss of Coldingham in 1478, the last English monastery on Scottish soil, despite their expensively-gained papal support. Next Dobson studies the career of Prior Bell, who tried in vain to save Coldingham. Then follows a study of the political role of Edward I's archbishops of York whom the king depended on because of his Scottish policy and his poor relations with the archbishops of Canterbury. A later archbishop of York, Alexander Neville, Dobson notes in the next article, failed in his attack against the elite residentiary canons of York Minster. …

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