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Prosperity and Plunder

Prosperity and Plunder
European Catholic Monasteries in the Age of Revolution, 1650–1815


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  • Date Published: July 2003
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9780521590907

£ 105.00

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About the Authors
  • In the Catholic countries of seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century Europe, communities of monks and nuns were growing in number and wealth. By 1750 there were at least 25,000 communities containing at least 350,000 inmates. They constructed vast buildings, dominated education, and played a large part in the practice and patronage of learning, music, and the arts. They also fulfilled an amazing variety of political, economic and social roles, notably in providing career opportunities for women. Yet many accounts of the period ignore them altogether. Prosperity and Plunder recovers this forgotten dimension of European history, assesses the importance of monasteries across Catholic Europe, and compares their position in different countries. It goes on to explain the almost complete destruction of the monasteries between 1750 and 1815 through reforming rulers, 'Enlightenment', and the French Revolution, and asks how much society gained and lost in the process.

    • This is a pioneering study of a forgotten theme in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century European history
    • Offers comparative discussion of monasteries and religious communities across Europe, from Portugal to Italy and Bohemia
    • Lavish illustration in colour and black-and-white supports a stylish and highly readable text
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    • Winner of the ISI Paolucci/Bagehot Book Award for 2004

    Reviews & endorsements

    'A major revision of a central area of scholarship … This is a study of the first importance for the period, and no one writing in the future will be able to ignore it. It is also very attractively written: concise, lucid and cogent.' Tim Blanning, University of Cambridge

    'Derek Beale's Prosperity and Plunder, beautifully produced and illustrated, is as elegiac a book as I have read in ages. I was informed, saddened and enraged in equal proportions.' John Morrill, BBC History Magazine

    '… this is a book which should be read by any historian or general reader who supposes monasteries to be dull, inert institutions, cut off from their political and social settings.' The Times Literary Supplement

    'This is an excellent book, lucidly written, wonderfully illustrated, and beautifully produced. It is also an important one.' Church Times

    'This handsomely produced and wonderfully illustrated book is much broader and more interesting than its title and timescale suggest.' European Review of History

    'Derek Beales's important and impressively presented and illustrated book is written with a strong sense of mission. … impressively wide-ranging.' Journal of Ecclesiastical History

    'This handsomely produced and wonderfully illustrated book is much broader and more interesting than its title and timescale suggests. It fills a huge gap in its field with admirable skill, sympathy and learning.' European History

    'Derek Beale's important and impressively presented and illustrated book is written with a strong sense of mission. … impressively wide-ranging'. Journal of Ecclesiastical History

    'This handsome and well-illustrated volume is a distinguished monument to the monasticism of the ancient regime.' The Historical Journal

    '… precise analysis of evolving policies …'. Historical Journal

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    Product details

    • Date Published: July 2003
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9780521590907
    • length: 414 pages
    • dimensions: 254 x 198 x 36 mm
    • weight: 1.389kg
    • contains: 41 b/w illus. 10 colour illus. 4 maps
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. At the Brim of Prosperity:
    1. The Counter-Reformation and the monasteries
    2. The German Catholic lands
    3. France
    4. Spain and Portugal
    5. Italy
    Part II. The Time of Reform:
    6. The suppression of the Jesuits
    7. Patterns of reform (i): France: the commission des réguliers
    8. Patterns of reform (ii): the Austrian monarchy: the Joseph(in)ist solution
    Part III. The Time of Revolution:
    9. The revolution in France
    10. The impact of the Revolution outside France
    Bibliographical essay

  • Author

    Derek Beales, University of Cambridge
    Derek Beales is Professor Emeritus of Modern History, University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of Sidney Sussex College.


    • Winner of the ISI Paolucci/Bagehot Book Award for 2004

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