Fifteen Eighty Four

Academic perspectives from Cambridge University Press


Music and Liturgy in Medieval Britain and Ireland

Ann Buckley and Lisa Colton

This book represents a first attempt inclusively to map out patterns of liturgical and musical culture across England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales over a 500-year period. Extending from the eve of the Norman Conquest of England in 1066 (and the subsequent Norman Invasion of Ireland in 1169) to the Protestant Reformation under King Henry VIII, its nine authors survey the manuscript evidence for Insular worship c. 1050–1550 from local, regional and European perspectives.

By emphasizing the varieties of liturgical design, the book challenges the more conventional centre–periphery approach which still largely obtains in musicological studies of Insular medieval repertoires. Furthermore, it reveals the limitations of such a mindset through rigorous exploration of primary source materials (many of which are drawn together here for the first time), highlighting the relevance of historical evidence for shifting political boundaries, plural identities, and the transmission and exchange of books and liturgical practices across Britain and Ireland. Overall, therefore, its aim is to enhance our understanding of the sources and experiences of Insular liturgical culture over time and space from a pluralistic, inclusive perspective.

In ten individual chapters, the contributors present a range of methodological approaches to textual witnesses of Insular liturgies, addressing particular Uses (e.g., Sarum, York, Hereford); Dominican monastic practices in Britain and Ireland; liturgical cults of local and regional saints (e.g., Ss Brigit, Canice, Columba, Patrick), and devotion to universal figures such as the Magi, St Katherine of Alexandria and St Margaret of Antioch, these last showing clear evidence of cross-Channel knowledge exchange between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries. A concluding Epilogue reflects on pathways for further research, particularly with respect to hitherto neglected areas such as Cornwall and the Isle of Man, and parts of Wales, where much research is still needed for a fuller picture to emerge.

The book is divided into three main parts: Part I begins with a chapter explaining its motivation and scope, with a brief overview of the nature of textual witnesses for Insular liturgies; the Parts II and III, respectively, address patterns in the veneration of regional and local saints in Insular liturgical sources,andtextual witnesses to Insular–Continental networks, each introduced with a linking chapter which places the individual essays in their wider historical context. A complete list manuscripts and comprehensive bibliography are provided at the end of the volume.

The editors, Ann Buckley and Lisa Colton, entered into this collaboration motivated by a shared interest in broadening the base for Insular Studies in medieval music. Ann Buckley’s research is driven by a desire to gain a better understanding of music in medieval Ireland from a broader Insular and European perspective, rather than viewing Irish musical heritage as somehow isolated from its neighbours, a still-prevailing tendency which privileges its rich Gaelic heritage to the relative neglect of the large body of Latin (and some French) sources, and indeed the crossover between all three. She also works on the history of European monophonic song, particularly the relationship between Latin and vernacular repertoires, patronage and social contexts.

Lisa Colton’s research in the history of English music, similarly, is concerned with exploring concepts of ‘Englishness’ across the Middle Ages, English–Continental relations, and not least, the issue of shifting political boundaries and cultural cleavages across and within England, Scotland and Wales. She is especially interested in how primary source materials can be used to challenge common assumptions concerning the strict boundaries between categories of institution, gender, social status, and musical genre.

Our shared interest in ‘fluid boundaries’, whether geographical, political, or intellectual, has given rise to many stimulating discussions as we developed our ideas for this book over the past six years. We were committed from the outset to making it accessible to a wider readership, both across academic disciplines and also with a view to engaging a wider public in these many important issues: issues which concern our understanding of the ‘Middle Ages’ and ‘dead societies’, but which equally reach dynamically into many aspects of how people think in the present day, not only about the past, but also about individual and group identity among the inhabitants of these islands in northwest Europe, sometimes today known as the ‘Atlantic Archipelago’.

In sharing these multiple riches, we hope to have in some way succeeded in our endeavour.

Ann Buckley and Lisa Colton (eds.)

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