The role of monastic institutions in society during the Central Middle Ages has been much debated in medieval studies. Some scholars saw monasticism as the principal motivator of economic, social, intellectual and ‘spiritual' progress in human society, while others regarded monastic ideology as fundamentally anti-social and oriented towards itself.
These debates seem to have lost some of their relevance to the present-day scholar. Today monasticism is studied as a social entity which needed interactions with the outside world, not only to subsist in a physical sense, but also to give a clear sense of purpose to its members. Drawing on recent trends in historical scholarship, this volume seeks to identify some of the major questions that will dominate research into monasticism in the years to come. Contributions deal with the evolution of monasticism itself, its links with aristocracy, the economic relations of religious communities and their physical and ideological boundaries, and the representation of the outside world in monastic manuscripts.