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This source book offers a comprehensive treatment of the solitary religious lives in England in the late Middle Ages. It covers both enclosed anchorites or recluses and freely-wandering hermits, and explores the relation between them. The sources selected for the volume are designed to complement better-known works connected with the solitary lives, such as the anchoritic guide Ancrene Wisse, or St Aelred of Rievaulx’s rule for his sister; or late medieval mystical authors including the hermit Richard Rolle or the anchorite Julian of Norwich. They illustrate the range of solitary lives that were possible in late medieval England, practical considerations around questions of material support, prescribed ideals of behaviour, and spiritual aspiration. It also covers the mechanisms and structures that were put in place by both civil and religious authorities to administer and regulate the vocations. Coverage extends into the Reformation period to include evidence for the fate of solitaries during the dissolutions and their aftermath. The material selected includes visual sources, such as manuscript illustrations, architectural plans and photographs of standing remains, as well as excerpts from texts. Most of the latter are translated here for the first time, and a significant proportion are taken from previously unpublished sources.

Simon Skinner

That hostility to the Reformation was a feature of the Oxford Movements outlook is a truism, but Tractarians’ anti-Reformation sentiments went much further than the purely theological. Tractarians consistently held that in its repudiation of antiquity and elevation of sola scriptura, the Reformation had launched a wider rationalism whose socio-economic as well as religious consequences they abhorred. If a Tractarian paternalism – which mourned the welfare consequences of the dissolution of the monasteries, and the rise of capitalism and its bourgeoisie,– had much in common with other nineteenth-century social criticism, a crucial difference emerged at the point of prescription. Their uncompromising advocacy of the church as the sole agency of amelioration, and promotion of such schemes as sisterhoods, sharply distinguished Tractarians,from advocates of legislative intervention or ethical socialism. Tractarians therefore looked not forward, to the ideal of a welfare state, but back, to the ideal of a welfare church.

Bulletin of the John Rylands Library
Kathryn Walls

’s name (cf. ‘Abbess’) and the fact that she is the beneficiary of Kirkrapine’s sinister materialistic expeditions, we may conclude that the monasteries have been corrupted by greed.36 At the post-biblical historical level, then, the lion’s attack on Kirkrapine must represent (as I am not the first to conclude) the dissolution of the monasteries begun by Henry VIII in 1536, just two years after the Act of Supremacy.37 This was justified in the ‘Act for the Dissolution of the Lesser Monasteries’ in terms of the ‘vicious carnall and abomynable lyving … dayly usyd

in God’s only daughter
Corporate life in a time of change 1525–47
J. F. Merritt

’s religious and economic influence in the town was substantially curtailed and redefined. The dissolution of the monasteries was also, of course, simply one aspect of the wider changes introduced by the Henrician Reformation. The lives of men and women were further disrupted by a transformation in parish religion. Although the reigns of Edward VI and Mary would have their own unsettling affects on the town of Westminster, some of the most important structural changes to affect the town took place under Henry VIII, and it is impossible to understand much of the later history

in The social world of early modern Westminster
Plants, paints and potions

The most famous play in English literature centres on the poisoning of Hamlet’s father. It is only one of many examples of poisoning in plays of the period; there are male poisoners and female poisoners, innocent victims and guilty ones, foreign ones and home-bred ones. This is not surprising given that poisoning was easy to stage and to act, but it also allows plays to explore a number of important contemporary issues. The death of Hamlet’s father occurs in a garden, specifically in an orchard. This is one of a number of sinister uses of fruit and flowers in the plays of Shakespeare and of other early modern playwrights, partly as a consequence of the loss of horticultural knowledge resulting from the dissolution of the monasteries and partly as a result of the many new plants being brought into English gardens through travel, trade, and attempts at colonisation. There were also fears about venom, about venereal infection, and about the ways in which soporifics troubled the distinction between sleep and death. The death of Hamlet’s father is also one of several examples of the ear being particularly vulnerable to poison, an idea explored here through plays featuring informers; finally, as Hamlet painfully discovers, poisoning is remarkably difficult to prove. This book explores poisoning in early modern plays, the legal and epistemological issues it raises, and the cultural work it performs, which includes questions related to race, religion, nationality, gender, and the relationship of humans to the environment.

Abstract only
Jan Broadway

generations. The dissolution of the monasteries released a vast amount of land on to the market and created a fluidity in land ownership which disrupted traditional patterns and introduced new entrants into the provincial gentry. The abolition of enforced celibacy led to the creation of clerical dynasties, which also changed the complexion of provincial society. At the same time the increasing use of the gentry in the civil administration of the country brought them into more regular and direct contact with central government. In contrast the traditional military role of the

in ‘No historie so meete’
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Conflict Gothic
Marie Mulvey-Roberts

to enlist in the British army was rebuffed. Shock waves from Henry VIII’s fissure with Rome over two hundred years earlier were still resonating, and indeed the Dissolution of the Monasteries can be seen as the unspoken horror in Castle of Otranto . Similarly, The Monk is a response to the desecration of the Catholic Church in France. In many ways, the French Revolution and the Henrician

in Dangerous bodies
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Richard Cust
Peter Lake

service to the commonweal, or of hot Protestant, even emergently ‘puritan’, godliness, these discourses represented relatively new cultural forms and modes of communication, used in response to the experience of wrenching change in the form of the breach with Rome, the dissolution of the monasteries or the impact of price inflation and rising population. Moreover, the language of ‘the country’ or the county was used to integrate social worlds, arenas of administrative, political and social action that were anything but county wide, into a unified vision of the county

in Gentry culture and the politics of religion
Jan Broadway

map gave visual form to what had previously been an abstract idea. The county was only one of the spatial communities to which the medieval gentry belonged – and not necessarily the strongest of those communities – but in Elizabeth’s reign it was given a potent, visual form.1 Had the Church maintained its medieval monopoly on education and caused the first atlas to contain maps of dioceses and archdeaconries, the development of local history might have taken a different course. Instead, the break with Rome and the dissolution of the monasteries radically changed the

in ‘No historie so meete’
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E.A. Jones

and financial support from the rest of society, up to and including the king himself [ 44 ], [ 45 ]. Indeed, the solitary lives in England were not actually abolished during the Reformation. Neither of the acts of parliament that accomplished Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries mentioned hermits or anchorites by name, though it is doubtful that their omission can have reflected any positive desire to see the

in Hermits and anchorites in England, 1200–1550