The Fenland monasteries during the reign of King Stephen
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This thesis considers the experience of the Fenland houses during the reign of Stephen, 1135-1154. It particularly focuses on wrongs committed against the houses during those years and the degree to which prelates helped or hindered their houses’ well-being. The primary source materials are narrative histories produced at the houses and documents concerning house lands and rights that were principally preserved in monastic cartularies. The thesis is divided into four chapters that progress largely chronologically. The two central chapters focus on Stephen’s reign. The first and last chapters present the preceding and succeeding years to ensure that Stephen’s reign is set in context. While episodes from the Fens regularly illustrate studies of the twelfth century, no in-depth study has examined the Fenland houses during the years of Stephen’s reign. This thesis will focus on the documentary evidence concerning the houses and the more subjective house histories in order to provide a fuller picture of what the houses endured and how they remembered Stephen’s reign. Although the specific turmoil they experienced cannot exemplify Stephen’s reign in England or even the general monastic experience of those years, it does provide a focused study of what monastic houses in a particular area underwent. Many of the problems are in no way unique to the Fens. Concerns over possession of lands, differences between prelates and monks, and violence intruding from the outside world were common to religious houses throughout England during the mid twelfth century. This study will use the extant records of the mid-to-late twelfth century to question the reality of suffering under Stephen and the role of prelates in affecting their houses’ experiences. This examination will ultimately shed some light on the situation in England more generally during that troubled time.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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