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Durham University

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James Cronin

Historical writing and research in the Benedictine monastic communities of late medieval England in the Department of History

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Thesis title: Historical writing and research in the Benedictine monastic communities of late medieval England

My research interests cover the religious and intellectual history of the late medieval and Reformation periods, the history of historical writing, and the history of the book.

My postgraduate research has focused on the attempts at reform within the Benedictine Order in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and the subsequent developments in intellectual culture that occurred due to these efforts. My masters dissertation was an examination of the surviving evidence relating to the provincial chapters of the Benedictine Order and the involvement of these chapters in reform during the early fifteenth century.

My PhD thesis is an analysis of historical writing and research composed within the Benedictine communities of late medieval England. The works of late medieval Benedictine historians have often been ignored or sidelined by modern scholars, who have criticised the monastic concern with local history in comparison to secular chronicles focused on issues of national significance. My thesis aims to provide a reexamination of the significance of the work of late medieval Benedictine historians through a comparative analysis of texts produced within a number of monastic communities during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. So far in my research I have encountered numerous similarities in the approaches employed by Benedictine historians, which serve to differentiate the late medieval historical writing from that of earlier periods to the extent that a new historiographical tradition can be identified. In the broader context of my research, I believe that this new historiographical tradition is indicative of developments in intellectual culture within the Benedictine Order in England resulting from attempts at reform during the late medieval period.

Research Interests

  • The Benedictine Order in late medieval England
  • Religious and intellectual history of the late medieval and Reformation periods
  • Palaeography, codicology, and the history of the book
  • History of historical writing

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