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by Eileen Power
Eileen Power, best known for her posthumously published Medieval Women, was one of the foremost scholars of medieval economic and social history in the first half of the twentieth century. This 1922 work is a substantial study of medieval English nunneries between 1275 and 1535. Power examines in depth who entered the convents, how they were organised, their finances, activities and problems. Although medieval nunneries were significantly poorer and less well documented than the monastic houses, Power uses the available sources to build up a multifaceted picture of medieval life. Her arguments are firmly rooted in documentary evidence, but are presented in an extremely accessible and engaging style. The book reveals that convent life was not particularly ascetic or learned, and that in poorer houses the nuns had to find additional sources of income. Power's account of their methods of coping makes fascinating reading.