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
Apr 02, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: european-history, history, nonfiction, religious-history

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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Reading Progress

April 2, 2012 – Started Reading
April 2, 2012 – Shelved
April 2, 2012 –
page 40
April 19, 2012 –
page 80
April 20, 2012 –
page 100
April 23, 2012 –
page 150
April 26, 2012 –
page 175
April 30, 2012 –
page 223
May 3, 2012 –
page 245
May 6, 2012 –
page 275
May 7, 2012 –
page 300
May 10, 2012 – Shelved as: european-history
May 10, 2012 – Shelved as: history
May 10, 2012 – Shelved as: nonfiction
May 10, 2012 – Shelved as: religious-history
May 10, 2012 – Finished Reading

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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