Don’t Dismiss Damsels

It is a pity when specialist historians condescend to an enthusiastic public.

Fra Angelico’s Deposition from the Cross (detail), 1436 © Bridgeman Images.

One day in 1420, the East Anglian mystic Margery Kempe visited a church in Norwich. In her extraordinary Book, a frank, personal and deeply engaging narrative of her life that has a claim to be the first autobiography in the English language, Kempe tells of many such visits, not just in England but also on her travels abroad. It is one of her gifts that she can conjure up for her reader with great vividness her interactions with other people, whether hostile or supportive, and so she does for this particular day in Norwich.

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