Death, life, and religious change in Scottish towns c. 1350-1560

By Mairi Cowan

Death, life, and religious change in Scottish towns c. 1350-1560


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-8023-4
  • Pages: 264
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £80.00
  • Published Date: January 2013
  • BIC Category: Religion, History of religion, HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain / Scotland, RELIGION / History, Scotland, Humanities / History of religion, Medieval History


Death, life, and religious change in Scottish towns c. 1350-1560 examines lay religious culture in Scottish towns between the Black Death and the Protestant Reformation. It looks at what the living did to influence the dead and how the dead were believed to influence the living in turn; it explores the ways in which townspeople asserted their individual desires in the midst of overlapping communities; and it considers both continuities and changes, highlighting the Catholic Reform movement that reached Scottish towns before the Protestant Reformation took hold. Students and scholars of Scottish history and of medieval and early modern history more broadly will find in this book a new approach to the religious culture of Scottish towns between 1350 and 1560, one that interprets the evidence in the context of a time when Europe experienced first a flourishing of medieval religious devotion and then the sterner discipline of early modern Reform.


Cowan's arguments in favour of Catholic Reformation, as she asserts, is "go against the grain of Scottish historiography". They certainly challenge stereotypical interpretations about intransigence and reaction. In its presentation of what is familiar in a case study that largely conforms to larger outlines, as well as what is off the beaten track for so much sixteenth-century historiography, she offers a compelling example of how a (Toronto) dissertation can become a book well deserving a wide readership.'

Any student of medieval religion will welcome this thorough analysis of Christian belief in late medieval / early modern Scotland.

In a highly readable book, Mairi Cowan explores the religious culture of Scottish towns in the period between the Black Death and the Scottish Reformation.

Dr Cowan has written a richly detailed, engaging study that successfully integrates the Scottish experience into our broader understanding of late medieval religious culture.


Part I: Lamenting the dead
1. How the living influenced the dead
2. How the dead influenced the living
Part II: Summoning the living
3. Communities of religion
4. The individual in the community
Part III: Subduing thunderbolts
5. Religious dissent
6. Catholic reform


Mairi Cowan is a Lecturer in the Department of Historical Studies at the University of Toronto Mississauga

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