Excommunication in thirteenth-century England: communities, politics, and publicity

Research output: Book/ReportBook


Excommunication was the medieval churchs most severe sanction, used against people at all levels of society. It was a spiritual, social, and legal penalty. Excommunication in Thirteenth-Century England offers a fresh perspective on medieval excommunication by taking a multi-dimensional approach to discussion of the sanction. Using England as a case study, Felicity Hill analyzes the intentions behind excommunication; how it was perceived and received, at both national and local level; the effects it had upon individuals and society. The study is structured thematically to argue that our understanding of excommunication should be shaped by how it was received within the community as well as the intentions of canon law and clerics. Challenging past assumptions about the inefficacy of excommunication, Hill argues that the sanction remained a useful weapon for the clerical elite: bringing into dialogue a wide range of source material allows effectiveness to be judged within a broader context. The complexity of political communication and action are revealed through public, conflicting, accepted and rejected excommunications. Excommunication could be manipulated to great effect in political conflicts and was an important means by which political events were communicated down the social strata of medieval society. Through its exploration of excommunication, the book reveals much about medieval cursing, pastoral care, fears about the afterlife, social ostracism, shame and reputation, and mass communication.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages344
ISBN (Electronic)9780191875946
ISBN (Print)9780198840367
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jun 2022


  • Excommunication
  • Ostracism
  • Publicity
  • Mass communication
  • Afterlife
  • Reputation
  • Shame
  • Pastoral care
  • Medieval England


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