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By Force and FearTaking and Breaking Monastic Vows in Early Modern Europe$
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Anne Jacobson Schutte

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780801449772

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801449772.001.0001

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Forced Monachization, 1668–1793

Forced Monachization, 1668–1793

An Overview

(p.1) Chapter 1 Forced Monachization, 1668–1793
By Force and Fear

Anne Jacobson Schutte

Cornell University Press

This chapter first sets out the book’s purpose, namely to shed new light on forced monachization, a phenomenon of the early modern period to which historians have hitherto accorded only sporadic, unsystematic attention. Unlike previous studies, it focuses not on a single instance but on 978 petitions for release from monastic vows submitted to the pope and adjudicated by the Holy Congregation of the Council between 1668 and 1793. The book reverses a number of erroneous stereotypes and reaches several startling conclusions about forced monachization, all of which bear directly or indirectly on the composition and functioning of elite and middling early modern families. First, coerced monachization was not exclusively or even predominantly a female problem. Second, not only cadets (adolescents below the top of the birth order) were coerced into entering monasteries and convents. Third, sexual urges, while by no means absent from the record, did not constitute the main reason why reluctant religious resented, resisted, and sought legal recourse against enforced monachization. The remainder of the chapter outlines the procedures for obtaining release from monastic vows and lays out the methodology used in the present study.

Keywords:   monastic vows, forced monachization, monasteries, convents, early modern Europe

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