A interesting post, and one that’s exposed some gaps in my knowledge. I’d always been under the impression that the early to mid-Victorians (at least here in Britain) had generally looked askance at the medieval period as one of violence, lawlessness and despotism. This sad state of affairs was ended by the arrival of the Tudors who proceeded to introduce a properly constituted legal system, trade and the beginnings of modern government. Havig read what you say about the Church I can’t help but agree – although it’s not an argument I’ve come across before.
As I’ve done my work in New Orleans and read about the 19th century, I keep running into the Medieval past. This was surprising to me initially. With all the emphasis on progress and industrialization going on in 19th century America, why would the Medieval world, with its connotations of darkness and backwardness, have resonance?
In my career prior to Goddard, I was a religious studies scholar, and I primarily worked on American Catholicism. I was keenly interested in how religion gave immigrants and other minority groups a sense of identity and the psychological bulwark to resist forces of oppression and assimilation. (These are admittedly still interests of mine, but I’ve come to realise that religion as boundary maintenance is a universal phenomenon, not one limited to the modern period.) One of the things Catholicism had working for it as an immigrant faith was its emphasis on the continuity of…
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