Julie Kerr: The Fragility Of Life In Medieval Britain

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Before reading Julie Kerr’s examination into the curious, and perilous dangers that were faced within monastic wall, it would be natural to assume that this is a topic that needs no investigation. This presumption is quickly overturned within the brief, but completely entertaining, Health and Safety in the Medieval Monasteries of Britain. Kerr dives into the world of these monks, and gives us a small glimpse into the many hazards that they faced throughout their work. Not only does Kerr’s work give an amusing look into the incidences and accidents within monastic life, but also demonstrated the fragility of life within Medieval Britain regardless of vocation. Kerr divides these into categories of discussion such as, incidents of self-affliction, construction accidents, and simple missteps, but all show that within Medieval Britain, there were many dangers outside of the routinely researched plagues and epidemics. The article itself focuses on the incidents rather than the illnesses faced within monastic life. Kerr explains this is largely disregarded due to the extensive scholarship that has been done regarding disease and sickness during this era. Instead, the article focuses on the odd accidents that might plague an individual. The first category that she delves into is that which…show more content…
Like any type of construction, these building required frequent maintenance and expansion. This led to many monks being surrounded by and working on the actual building or their surroundings. These included, falls from scaffolding, crushed by debris, and even the collapse of the structures themselves. Kerr notes one particular incident in 1091 at Abington Abbey in which “the great cloud of mortar that came crashing down with the tower extinguished the lights, living the monks in a state of dirt, darkness, and despair” (9). Monasteries also faced the unknowns that came with fire, earthquakes, and even

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