Tom Licence

in Hermits and Recluses in English Society, 950–1200

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780199592364
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191595639 | DOI:

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)


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The first part of the introduction illustrates the paradox central to this book: that society in this period sponsored and even revered a whole category of people whose ideals and ways of doing things contradicted its own. Seeking an explanation, this part charts the historiography, introducing such debates as those surrounding the rise and function of the ‘holy man’ and the ‘crisis of cenobitism’, before identifying shortcomings in current explanations and suggesting a new approach to the paradox. The second part discusses the problems of definition, not only in creating workable categories for historians (such as ‘hermits’, ‘recluses’, and ‘hermitages’) but also in identifying useful references. It concludes with general comments on the sources used in the inquiry and some of the challenges they can pose.

Keywords: historiography; holy man; crisis of cenobitism; definitions; sources

Chapter.  10738 words. 

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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