Death, life, and religious change in Scottish towns, c.1350–1560

Author: Mairi Cowan

This book examines lay religious culture in Scottish towns between the Black Death and the Protestant Reformation. Part I looks at what the living did to influence the dead and at how the dead were believed to influence the living in turn. It shows that the living and the dead shared a reciprocal relationship of obligation and assistance, and that the bonds between the two groups were especially strong when they involved blood or guild kinship. Part II considers the overlapping communities in Scottish towns where people could personalize religious expression in a meaningful social context. Part III focuses on the period between 1350 and 1560 as one of disruption and development. It assesses weaknesses in the Scottish ecclesiastical structure and instances of religious dissent, and then it considers the Scottish Church’s response to these challenges. Two main arguments run through the book. The first is that most laypeople in Scottish towns continued to participate in orthodox Catholic practices right through to the mid-sixteenth century. The second major argument is that Catholic religious practices in Scottish towns underwent a significant shift between 1350 and 1560. This shift, which is most easily perceived when Scotland is considered within the broader European transition from the medieval to the early modern period, brought with it a kind of pre-Reformation reformation in religious practice.

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