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Looking for Nuns
A Prosopographical study of Scottish Nuns in the later Middle Ages By Kimm Curran, B.A.


[In historical studies, prosopography is an investigation of the common characteristics of a historical group, whose individual biographies may be largely untraceable, by means of a collective study of their lives, in multiple career-line analysis. The use and development of prosopography, therefore, is closely connected to the problem of scarcity of historical data. For more information see the guide at: http://prosopography.modhist.ox.ac.uk/images/01%20verboven%20pdf.pdf]

John Cunningham remarked that medieval Scottish convents were shrouded in mystery but had power in “molding the piety of the time [yet were] too secret in their operation to be traced.” It must be this secrecy that has kept scholars away from the subject of Scottish convents as to date, no one has undertaken a complete study to assist in an appreciation of female monastic establishments and the women who lived in them. There are many reasons why this may be the case. First, many monastic historians in general consider female monastic houses to be unimportant or uninteresting in the overall history of a particular order or the movement as a whole. Secondly, excuses have been made that female houses were too poor, had scanty resources, and were “too different” from their male counterparts to render them important enough to study. Faced with these comments from historians it is no wonder that no study of female monasticism in Scotland has been attempted.

What this paper intends to give is a perspective on how female monasticism has been studied in the past, how it has changed and evolved and how it may be possible to study female monasticism in Scotland based on new methods or approaches. Finally, by using these new methods, I hope to show that we can leam something about the convents of Scotland, especially those women who became nuns and the importance these convents may have had in their community.

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