Siria's Reviews > Western Society and the Church in the Middle Ages

Western Society and the Church in the Middle Ages by R.W. Southern
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's review
May 10, 12

bookshelves: european-history, history, nonfiction, religious-history
Read from April 02 to May 10, 2012

R.W. Southern was a doyen of medieval history, and as such his Western Society and the Church in the Middle Ages remains a good introduction to the development of ecclesiastical institutions in Western Europe. Southern writes well, never talks down to the reader, and he had a great knack for summing up a movement or an order in a deceptively simple yet revealing sentence or two. A vast reading in chronicles and cartularies is displayed in the wide range of (sometimes obscure) anecdotes which he used to illustrate his work. Of course, this is still a book conceived and largely written in the 1960s, and its ages shows in a number of aspects—women are shunted off to a small section near the end, there is talk of the end of the early medieval golden age for women religious, etc. Many of his statements about women's religion, and indeed how Southern approaches the church-as-institution have been challenged, if not overturned, by more recent scholarship. Recommended, but with reservations.

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04/02/2012 page 40
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth  Wow, that title isn't ambitious at all.

Siria Well, it's really a textbook survey type of book—it's part of a Penguin series on the history of the church—and it seems to focus more on the church-as-hierarchy than church-as-ecclesia. It's by R.W. Southern which is why I thought I should read it. He's a pretty influential figure in medieval history.

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