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The Catholic Historical Review 87.4 (2001) 748-749

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Book Review

Bibliografische Inleiding tot de Belgische Kloostergeschiedenis vóór 1796

Bibliografische Inleiding tot de Belgische Kloostergeschiedenis vóór 1796. 23 fascicles. [Brussels: Algemeen Rijksarchief. 1996-1999.]

This handy collection of twenty-three bibliographical studies will be of greatest use to specialists in the history of Netherlandish monasticism (especially what is now Belgium) before the French Revolution.

One can divide the studies into two sorts: those which approach the subject of monasticism rather broadly, and those which focus on a particular order. The former includes separate volumes on these topics: journals about monasticism, basic publications about each religious order, a basic bibliography in monastic history (subdivided into separate volumes on "Internal Structures," "Monastic Community," and "Seals"), published series on monasticism, encyclopedias and biographical dictionaries related to monasticism, archives of religious orders in Rome, and Netherlandish manuscripts on monasticism in the libraries of Paris. Although the focus is on Netherlandish experience, the editors have thoughtfully placed this in larger context by listing a significant amount of material on other areas of Europe as well.

The more specialized volumes pay greater attention to Netherlandish history, but these too include helpful introductions which set each order in context. These volumes treat the following topics: the Annunciation Sisters, the monastic institutions of East Flanders, the same for West Flanders, the Wilhelmites, the Augustinians, the Augustinian Black Sisters, the Order of the Visitation of St. Mary, the Order of the Immaculate Conception, a collection of papers on various orders delivered at a 1997 conference in Brussels, and a slightly out-of-place study (because not primarily bibliographical) of a lawsuit involving the Black Sisters of Brussels between 1737 and 1741. Each volume has its interesting points, but because of the importance of these orders in the Low Countries and the skill with which they are presented the volumes on the Augustinians and the Black Sisters deserve special mention.

Apparently still more volumes, especially those of the specialized sort, will appear in the future, again with the National Archives in Brussels playing a leading role, so that anyone venturing into the field will soon have even more help than the generous amount offered here. Clearly these volumes reflect the longstanding interest in, and importance of, monastic and quasi-monastic orders in [End Page 748] the Low Countries, and well-organized lists of orders, houses, and primary and secondary materials (plus detailed indices) will help the curious become quickly oriented to the state of the field, both in the Low Countries and beyond. One might wonder whether the series would ultimately be better served by some kind of electronic format, which would allow for regular, convenient updates. One might also quibble with the (probably unavoidable) repetition between volumes, and ask whether some of the subdividing of topics is a bit overdone. But these are not major objections: one can be sure to find what one is looking for, and much more.


Craig Harline
Brigham Young University



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