Leadership in Medieval English Nunneries

July 2005
5 black and white, 2 line illustrations
266 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Studies in the History of Medieval Religion
ISBN: 9781843831501
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Boydell Press

Leadership in Medieval English Nunneries

Valerie G. Spear

Examination of the role of the convent superior in the middle ages, underlining the amount of power and responsibility at her command.
The position of an abbess or prioress in the middle ages was one of great responsibility, with care for both the spiritual and economic welfare of her convent. This book considers the power wielded by and available to such women. It addresses leadership models, questions of social identity and the varying perceptions of the role and performance of the abbess or prioress via a close examination of the records of sixteen female houses in the period from 1280 to 1540; the large range of documentary evidence used includes selections from episcopal registers, account rolls, plea rolls, Chancery documents, letters, petitions, medieval literature and comparative material from additional nunneries. The theme of conflict recurs throughout, as religious women are revealed steering their communities between the directives of the church and the demands of their budgets or their secular neighbours. The Dissolution and its effects on the morale and behaviour of the last superiors conclude the study.

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Presents a compelling and fascinating picture of leadership within English nunneries. [...] A significant contribution to the study of female monastic leadership. An extremely well-researched book. ECCLESIASTICAL LAW JOURNAL
Offers much insight. SOUTHERN HISTORY
[Includes] important information and analysis well beyond the scope of the title [and] manages to build a coherent picture of how varied the conditions of nunneries were in the given period. REVIEWS IN HISTORY
There is a wealth of detail in Spear's book that adds considerably to our picture of medieval nunnery superiors and their institutions. A satisfyingly detailed study of medieval English nunnery leaders. PARERGON

Author Bio

Valerie G. Spear is a Visiting Fellow at Australian National University, Australia.

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