Piling it on

So how’s the guilt pile coming on, Malcolm?

Not too well.

As predicted, Thursday Next edged out Giordano Bruno, and great fun it was, too.

Then, thanks to Diarmaid MacCullough’s headline review in The Times Literary Supplement, Malcolm went off onto a medieval tangent.

He is now engaged in a pedestrian trek (though it is no plod) through R.I.Moore’s The War on Heresy.

OK, OK: Malcolm is a sucker for anything Cathar; but Moore is the remedy to that addiction. The book’s sub-title gives the game away: Faith and power in medieval Europe.

So far Malcolm is a third of the way in, and still working up to Pope Innocent III and the Albigensian Crusade. Innocent? — hardly.

Moore has filleted contemporary and post-contemporary documents and chronicles to unearth repeated tales of innocence persecuted and ignorance sent to the pyre. In every case, the reader is left with awareness that all of it was a matter of social control.

As for “power”, at this stage of history power stemmed entirely from land-ownership. The church and the rising nobility were in competition for land. When there was a surfeit of land-hungry younger noble sons, pushing them into the church was one obvious solution. That necessitated celibate clergy, else church lands would be divided between married canons who would, in turn, generate dynasties hostile to the noble interests. So (as on page 61):

… the land of western Europe [was divided] into two distinct and watertight categories, transmitted on one side through blood and the sword, on the other by ordination and appointment to office. To be qualified to hold land in either capacity was ipso facto to be disqualified from doing so in the other. So fundamental was this distinction to the new European society being shaped in the eleventh and twelfth centuries that its dismantling by reformation and bloody revolution between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries is now considered an essential pre-condition of modernity.


You don’t get insight like that at a penny a pound.

Back to the guilt pile

As a result, the pile continues to teeter. While Malcolm is one Fforde down, he is otherwise up three. The Parris Sacrilege has slipped down the heap: there’s now the first book in the Bruno sequence, Heresy (see a connection at all?) atop and before it. There’s also:


Apart from the teeth-grrrinding triviality of that sub-title, Malcolm can help you. The six are: “multilevel competition”, scientific progress, English property laws, medical advances, the consumer society and that famous (and recently visited) protestant/calvinist work-ethic. There, didn’t that save time?

As far as Malcolm can quickly scan, “democracy” and “equality” do not feature at all. “Socialism” gets one fleeting reference (page 208-9). Oh, and:

… the 1968 revolution was all about clothes. [page 246]

But this is Ferguson, after all.



Filed under History, Jasper Fforde, Literature, Niall Ferguson, Times Literary Supplement

4 responses to “Piling it on

  1. Pingback: Wand’rin early, wand’rin late | Malcolm Redfellow’s Home Service

  2. Pingback: The greatest mind shift? | Malcolm Redfellow’s Home Service

  3. Pingback: Update on the guilt pile | Malcolm Redfellow’s Home Service

  4. Pingback: Better to marry than burn? | Malcolm Redfellow’s Home Service

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