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Tony Grist

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The Dissolution Of The Monasteries [Jun. 11th, 2011|10:27 am]
Tony Grist
"Dissolution"- a curiously mild word- as if the monasteries had just melted away. The reality was theft, murder and the obliteration of a thousand year old culture. The English have always been a little cagey about talking about it.  Henry VIII?- oh, he was the man who had trouble with his wives. Where is the art that deals with this national crime? There isn't any. Shakespeare, who lived as close to the events as my generation does to WWII, slips in the odd reference- "bare ruined choirs where once the sweet birds sang"- but you sense him being careful. The new ruling class didn't want people talking about how they'd come by  their nice new houses and estates. 
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[User Picture]From: michaleen
2011-06-11 11:43 am (UTC)
To be honest, I suspect there are a lot of silent periods of British history. I often wonder how much is said about their deliberately spreading smallpox among the Native Americans or their involvement in the slave trade. When rehearsing their heroic exploits, do they mention the firestorm of Dresden, I wonder? or the massacres and sundry atrocities casually committed in India, Ireland and elsewhere?

From a distance, it seems like the Brits take such pride in how civilized they are, their "thousand years of good breeding", as an English correspondent of mine once put it. I think it might be better said that, with a thousand years of practice, they are just that much better at hiding the bodies and politely changing the subject.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2011-06-11 01:41 pm (UTC)
Well, there's a lot of guilt about the Empire washing about these days, the bombing of German cities is a perennial subject of debate, the Queen recently laid a wreath at the IRA memorial in Dublin- and earlier this year I went round the new Museum of Slavery and the Slave Trade in Liverpool. I don't think we do too badly at facing up to the crimes of our ancestors.
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[User Picture]From: michaleen
2011-06-12 01:02 pm (UTC)
A wreath? Really?

I think they should have drug your queen off to Kilmainham Gaol, put a bucket over her head and beat on it for a while -- not too hard, mind you, since she isn't getting any younger, but hard enough to help her "face up" to the crimes of her ancestors. That's how her ancestor's minions liked to help any locals that dared stand up to their English masters.

Then perhaps we could throw the old ratbag in some stinking ship's hole and transport her to Sydney Cove to rot. Alternatively, we could show her the English equivalent of leniency and just quietly hang her.
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[User Picture]From: ooxc
2011-06-11 01:35 pm (UTC)
Odd, isn't it, when you think how many of the former occupants were still around for years afterwards? Indeed, at least one family continued to house members of a dissolved community - I've never understood how they got away with that - but perhaps nobody cared, once the monastic assets had been redistributed
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2011-06-11 01:43 pm (UTC)
One of these days I must read up about the Dissolution. It's a subject about which I know far too little.
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[User Picture]From: ooxc
2011-06-11 02:29 pm (UTC)
I think that's true for most people - but the little that I know comes more from family histories and correspondence, rather than from history books.
What's never been clear to me is how local people really thought about the monastic foundations - I suspect that it was pretty mixed, and that it wasn't only those who acquired formerly monastic buildings who benefited. It's not as if new owners moved straight in - there must have been quite a lot of local benefit to be had from livestock, fishponds, etc. - not to mention the amount of stone that got carted around
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2011-06-11 04:49 pm (UTC)
That was me, of course. I hadn't realised I wasn't signed in.
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[User Picture]From: steepholm
2011-06-11 04:11 pm (UTC)
If, as some folk do say, Shakespeare was a recusant, he may have had extra cause for reticence.

But I agree that there are many blank periods in our national consciousness, and for the cause you identify: "Treason doth never prosper - what's the reason? For if it prosper, none dares call it treason." Not too much medieval poetry about the harrying of the north, for example - William's own genocide.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2011-06-11 04:53 pm (UTC)
I like to think William was visited on his deathbed- like Shakespeare's Richard- by the ghosts of his victims, but I don't suppose he was.
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[User Picture]From: steepholm
2011-06-11 05:02 pm (UTC)
It would have taken too long, I think. 100,000 died in the harrying alone (out of a total population of 2.25 million).
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[User Picture]From: wyrmwwd
2011-06-11 04:59 pm (UTC)
Well said. A constant reminder of what a risky business the business of religion really is.
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[User Picture]From: ideealisme
2011-06-11 05:03 pm (UTC)
Coming from a country that fetishises history to an unhealthy degree, it intrigues me that as you say, so little is discussed on this upheaval in English history.
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[User Picture]From: endlessrarities
2011-06-14 08:34 pm (UTC)
An absolute disaster, more like...

I CAN'T STAND HENRY VIII!!!
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