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From Exile to Exile: Repatriation, Resettlement and the Contemplative Experience of English Benedictine Nuns in England 1795–1838

JACOB, SUSAN,SCHOLASTICA (2022) From Exile to Exile: Repatriation, Resettlement and the Contemplative Experience of English Benedictine Nuns in England 1795–1838. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



This thesis argues that English Benedictine women viewed repatriation from the Continent to England in 1795, not as a homecoming, but as a second exile. It examines five English Benedictine convents – founded in exile on the Continent in the seventeenth century and forced to seek refuge in England in the 1790s – through the lens of transition and resettlement. Arguing that the French Revolution was a pivotal event in the deconstruction and reconstruction of English Catholic religious life, it explores how these nuns negotiated their journey from survival to re-foundation, through the experience of rupture, loss and conflicted loyalties. The thesis focuses on the re-establishment of these female contemplative communities in England and explores tensions, continuities and adaptations in the nuns’ daily, spiritual, devotional and reading lives. It challenges perceptions of the nuns as conservators of traditional Benedictine practice and highlights their previously unappreciated contribution to women’s education, Protestant-Catholic relations and refugee narratives. Until now, there has been little scholarly exploration of the monastic female experience in England in the early years of the nineteenth century. This thesis fills in the forty-year gap in the historiography of women religious which lies between studies of early modern English convents in their Continental exile and those concentrating on apostolic orders later in the century. It reveals the period to be a bridge between the two, essential to understanding both the emergence of the apostolics and the re-flowering of the monastics in the fabled ‘second spring’ of English Catholicism. While emphasising the importance of the role of the contemplatives in English religious history, it demonstrates that for the Benedictine nuns, this period was far from a triumphant homecoming. It was in fact a second exile.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:"Benedictine", "English Convents", "English Nuns", "Exile",
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2022
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:18 Mar 2022 14:10

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