In 1598, the first English convent was established in Brussels and was to be followed by a further 21 enclosed convents across Flanders and France with more than 4,000 women entering them over a 200-year period. In theory they were cut off from the outside world; however, in practice the nuns were not isolated and their contacts and networks spread widely, and their communal culture was sophisticated. Not only were the nuns influenced by continental intellectual culture but they in turn contributed to a developing English Catholic identity moulded by their experience in exile. During this time, these nuns and the Mary Ward sisters found outlets for female expression often unavailable to their secular counterparts, until the French Revolution and its associated violence forced the convents back to England. This interdisciplinary collection demonstrates the cultural importance of the English convents in exile from 1600 to 1800 and is the first collection to focus solely on the English convents.
Caroline Bowden is Research Fellow and former Project Manager of the ’Who were the Nuns?’ project funded by the AHRC at Queen Mary, University of London, and has published a number of papers on women’s education and learning and the English convents in exile. James E. Kelly is post-doctoral fellow at Durham University’s Centre for Catholic Studies, Project Manager of the ’Nuns’ project at Queen Mary’s and researches post-Reformation Catholic history in Europe and Britain.
’This is an important book in many respects. The editors have assembled fourteen chapters that bring together in one volume much impressive work that has been undertaken recently... The volume is exceptionally well-presented... An unexpected delight in a work of this nature is the collection of twenty-eight colour illustrations - many of them never seen widely before or never seen in colour... this is a book not to be missed by all with an interest in Catholic history, women’s history, cultural history, the history of female religious, or just ’history’ in this period.' Historians of Women Religious of Britain and Ireland '... the book is beautifully produced and contains twenty-eight stunning color plates... the collection as a whole inaugurates an exciting new era in scholarship on the exilic convents, and will no doubt prove to be invaluable to researchers in religious history, women’s literature, book history, art history, and musicology.' Recusant History 'The studies presented here will, therefore, offer food for thought for scholars in history, art history, literature, and religion, and ensure that the English convents on the Continent can no longer be isolated from early modern scholarship.' Renaissance Quarterly 'Caroline Bowden and James E. Kelly have produced a much-needed and very useful collection of essays. ... that any early modern British historian should have on their shelf, because it paves the way for further work on the Catholic component of the "British problem:'' Sixteenth Century Journal 'This lively and far-ranging interdisciplinary collection performs a remarkable service in bringing to public attention a group whose lives and works have long been victim to history's silencing of women ... a welcome addition to an invaluable body of scholarship.' Journal of Jesuit Studies ’This volume makes an invaluable contribution to the history of early modern women, and is a vital text for scholars of early modern literature, women’s