It is always dangerous to proclaim novelty in religious matters, and seldom more so than in relation to the changes of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. In particular the assertions of contemporary observers, bishops, chroniclers and others, that new doctrines were being disseminated or new forms of behaviour detected among the people (a word which, like them, I use in a strict sense to mean the unlettered and the unprivileged, and not simply as a synonym for laity) were usually false, and almost always profoundly misleading. But the assertions themselves are new. They are not without precedent, of course: no epoch of the Christian era has been so bereft of the blessings of civilisation as to be entirely unable to produce episcopal denunciations of novelty. But granted the dangers inherent in all such pronouncements it does seem to me that we encounter in these centuries, for the first time since late antiquity, a rising and, as it turned out, continuous chorus of anxiety that the people were acting collectively for religious purposes if not necessarily outside the church, at any rate without its initiation or approval. In that sense it is appropriate to maintain that the modern history of voluntary religious associations, at least as a source of alarm and despondency to those in positions of authority, begins here. Obviously, therefore, it must be a central preoccupation of this paper, though I hope not the only one, to consider to what extent the source of the anxiety lay in the eye of the clerical beholder rather than in the external popular reality, as well as to wonder in either case what needs gave rise to it, and what purpose it served.