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The Formation Of A Persecuting Society:…
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The Formation Of A Persecuting Society: Power And Deviance In Western… (1987)

by R. I. Moore

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This is an interesting book which speculates on the reasons behind increased persecution of Jews, heretics, lepers, homosexuals and others in 11th-12th century Europe. The author wants to refute the thesis that such persecuted groups all manifested an actual threats to society at this time. Persecution was not demanded or supported by the general public. Instead it originated among the literate classes who obtained responsibility for practical government in churches and kingdoms in these centuries. To them persecution was a means of protecting their position against challengers and a means for justifying their power to their rulers and the public. On the final pages the author writes that he does not want to replace one simplistic explanation with another, so his thesis must be qualified. But it nevertheless poses a question with interesting implications for subsequent periods in European history, especially the Renaissance and the religious wars that came with it. Was intolerance among literate elites a necessary complement to literary advancement?
  thcson | Sep 24, 2015 |
Two books about the Middle Ages must be read by every literate American, at gunpoint if neccessary.
1. The Pursuit of the Millennium by Norman Cohn
2. and this one ( )
  clarkland | Sep 19, 2015 |
(Second edition) This is a fascinating and important work, an extended essay on the persecution of lepers, heretics and Jews by others in medieval Europe. Moore takes issue with the traditional explanation for the increase in the scale and force of that persecution from the eleventh and twelfth century onwards—that it became more strenuous and more oppressive because heretics, Jews and lepers increased in number—and argues that we should seek the cause of persecution not in the persecuted but in the persecutors. Moore argues that in the wake of the Gregorian church reforms and as a result of an increase in socio-economic complexity, with both churchmen and aristocrats making new claims to universal political and cultural authority, the image and the rhetoric of the Other (the dangerous, the polluted, the heretic and the Jew and the carrier of disease) became means of legitimating authority. For the first time, western Europe (the book focuses mostly on France and northern Italy) becomes not a society in which some persecution takes place, but a persecuting society—a change which has ramifications for Western society right down to the twentieth century.

As a short book, addressing some very large issues, Moore is making quite a generalising argument at times, but he is careful to acknowledge that and to point out that he seeks to give a partial explanation for persecution, which is dependent always on context and contingency, and not a whole one. There are some points that I'd quibble with in terms of how Moore draws on anthropology (particularly that on African societies; I'm more and more disaffected with how (medieval) European scholars don't seem to realise that slavery is not the same institution in all societies and all time periods) to make his case, but overall this is a persuasive and well-written book. Even if you have not much background in medieval history, I would recommend The Formation of a Persecuting Society if you have an interest in social justice movements because of how Moore teases out the origins of a rhetoric of oppression that's had lengthy consequences. ( )
1 vote siriaeve | Jul 10, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0631171452, Paperback)

The Tenth to the Thirteenth centuries in Europe saw the appearance of popular heresy and the establishment of the inquisition; expropriation and mass murder of Jews; the foundation of leper hospitals in large numbers and the propagation of elaborate measures to segregate lepers from the healthy. These have traditionally been seen as distinct and separate developments, and explained in terms of the problems which their victims presented to medieval society. In this stimulating book Robert Moore argues that the coincidences in the treatment of these and other minority groups cannot be explained independently, and that all are part of a pattern of persecution which now appeared for the first time to make Europe become, as it has remained, a persecuting society.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:05 -0400)

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