Taming a Brood of Vipers

Conflict and Change in Fourteenth-Century Dominican Convents


Gamblers, cheats, womanizers and thieves, and cranky reformers who wanted their old Order back, flesh-and-blood men with complicated desires and knotty dispositions. Opening a rich trove of sources – the annual chapter acts of the Dominican Order’s Province of Aragon – Michael Vargas uncovers the costly successes and institutional weaknesses that contributed to the distressing realities of Dominican conventual life in the troubled fourteenth century. Taming a Brood of Vipers finds Dominican friars engaged in activities very much at odds with our sense of the way it should have been, but removing the moral overlay makes the conflict and apparent indiscipline in Dominican religious communities more intelligible and more appreciably human.

Winner of the 2013 La corónica International Book Award, given annually by the Modern Language Association Division on Medieval Hispanic Languages, Literatures, and Cultures for the best monograph published on Medieval Hispanic Languages, Literatures, and Cultures.

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Michael A. Vargas, Ph.D. (Fordham University, 2006) is Assistant Professor of History at The State University of New York at New Paltz.
Taming a Brood of Vipers is winner of the La Corónica Book Award 2013.

"ein glänzend geschriebenes, ungemein anregendes Buch" – Ralf Lützelschwab, in: Sehepunkte 12/9 (2012)
Acknowledgments ... vii
List of Abbreviations ... ix
Maps ... xi
Introduction ... 1

Part One: Exigencies
Chapter One Success and Successors ... 37
Chapter Two The Contentious Birth of a New Province ... 73
Chapter Three Growth, Crisis and Recovery ... 99
Chapter Four Bad-Boy Friars and Complicit Leaders ... 125

Part Two: Everyday Experience in Dominican Convents
Chapter Five Friar-Youths and Troublesome Others ... 163
Chapter Six Office and Official ... 207
Chapter Seven Challenged Vows ... 249
Chapter Eight In Defense of Corporate Honor... 279

Epilogue ... 317

Bibliography ... 327
Manuscripts ... 327
Printed Sources... 327
Secondary Works ... 329
Index ... 343
For students of late medieval history; religious orders and Church history; institutions and daily life in medieval organizations, including the relationship of rules to customs; historiography and method; plague demography.