In the Catholic countries of seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century Europe, communities of monks and nuns were growing in number and wealth. By 1750 there were at least 25,000 communities containing at least 350,000 inmates. They constructed vast buildings, dominated education, and played a large part in the practice and patronage of learning, music, and the arts. They also fulfilled an amazing variety of political, economic and social roles, notably in providing career opportunities for women. Yet many accounts of the period ignore them altogether. Prosperity and Plunder recovers this forgotten dimension of European history, assesses the importance of monasteries across Catholic Europe, and compares their position in different countries. It goes on to explain the almost complete destruction of the monasteries between 1750 and 1815 through reforming rulers, 'Enlightenment', and the French Revolution, and asks how much society gained and lost in the process.
'A major revision of a central area of scholarship ... This is a study of the first importance for the period, and no one writing in the future will be able to ignore it. It is also very attractively written: concise, lucid and cogent.' Professor Tim Blanning, University of Cambridge 'Derek Beale's Prosperity and Plunder, beautifully produced and illustrated, is as elegiac a book as I have read in ages. I was informed, saddened and enraged in equal proportions.' John Morrill, BBC History Magazine '... this is a book which should be read by any historian or general reader who supposes monasteries to be dull, inert institutions, cut off from their political and social settings.' Times Literary Supplement 'This is an excellent book, lucidly written, wonderfully illustrated, and beautifully produced. It is also an important one.' Church Times 'This handsomely produced and wonderfully illustrated book is much broader and more interesting than its title and timescale suggest.' European Review of History 'Derek Beales's important and impressively presented and illustrated book is written with a strong sense of mission. ... impressively wide-ranging.' Journal of Ecclesiastical History 'This handsomely produced and wonderfully illustrated book is much broader and more interesting than its title and timescale suggests. It fills a huge gap in its field with admirable skill, sympathy and learning.' European History 'Derek Beale's important and impressively presented and illustrated book is written with a strong sense of mission. ... impressively wide-ranging'. Journal of Ecclesiastical History 'This handsome and well-illustrated volume is a distinguished monument to the monasticism of the ancient regime.' The Historical Journal '... precise analysis of evolving policies ...'. Historical Journal