Morris, Colin 1928–

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Morris, Colin 1928–


Born September 16, 1928.


Office—School of Humanities, University of Southampton, Avenue Campus, Highfield, Southampton, SO17 1BF, England. E-mail—[email protected]


Historian, educator, writer, and editor. University of South Hampton, South Hampton, England, professor of medieval history.


Medieval Media: Mass Communication in the Making of Europe: An Inaugural Lecture Delivered at the University, 14th March 1972, University of Southampton (Southampton, England), 1972.

The Discovery of the Individual, 1050-1200, S.P.C.K./Church Historical Society (London, England), 1972, reprinted, University of Toronto Press/Medieval Academy of America (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1987.

The Papal Monarchy: The Western Church from 1050 to 1250, Clarendon Press (Oxford, England), 1989.

(Editor, with Peter Roberts, and author of introduction) Pilgrimage: The English Experience from Becket to Bunyan, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2002.

The Sepulchre of Christ and the Medieval West: From the Beginning to 1600, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2005.


Colin Morris is a historian who has written extensively about medieval times in England with a special focus on Christianity during that era. Morris is the editor, with Peter Roberts, of the 2002 book Pilgrimage: The English Experience from Becket to Bunyan. Called an "erudite and eminently readable collection" by Gayle Gaskill for H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online, the book features the proceedings from a 1999 colloquium held in Kent, England. In this book, the editors feature essays discussing how English shrine-seeking evolved from the time before Thomas Becket was canonized in 1173 on through to the disappearance of monasteries in the late 1530s and even to the period of the Puritan Pilgrims of New England in 1620. "This is the work of distinguished British historians who have carefully perused oaths, songs, and poetry as well as wills, parish and cathedral records, travel narratives, and court proceedings, and who have visited the ruins of pilgrim sites in Britain as well as their replicas abroad," noted Gaskill for H-Net.

"It is notoriously difficult to define a pilgrim," Morris writes in his introduction to the book. "The original Latin word peregrinus was an unspecific term, meaning a traveller, stranger, alien, or immigrant. Such people were not necessarily involved in a religious journey, and did not even have to be travelling at all." The author went on to note in his introduction: "By the period with which this volume is concerned, the term had become more specific and hardened to an institution. The pilgrim was a man or a woman who travelled in order to reach a shrine."

In the course of their essays, contributors explore such topics as the evolution of the pilgrimage over time and the iconography of the pilgrimage as set forth by Thomas Becket. Christopher Ohan wrote in History: Review of New Books: "Although the chapters of Pilgrimage are written from various perspectives, Colin Morris provides a common unifying element in his introduction, this being simply the definition of ‘pilgrim,’ which, he argues, is determined by the social expectations of the time." Writing in the Renaissance Quarterly, William Parker noted that the volume "is certainly the embodiment of several of the most important trends in recent historiography, most conspicuously, cultural history," adding: "All of the contributors endeavor to place the meaning of pilgrimage in particular contexts. Moreover, more and more historians are paying attention to art, and one of the volume's strengths is its attention to visual evidence. Art, architecture, and imagery are all treated extensively."

The Sepulchre of Christ and the Medieval West: From the Beginning to 1600 was published in 2006 and examines the character of Christ's memorial at Jerusalem and its discovery and development by Constantine. The author goes on to focus on the Sepulchre's significance as a vital influence in the making of Western Europe. According to the author, the making of copies or memorials as part of the desire to bring the Holy Sepulchre to the West had a profound influence on the arts, including architecture, sculpture, and painting. He writes that, as a result, this desire and its influence were central to the workmanship and liturgy of the Church. Commenting on the book in Church History, Richard Kieckhefer noted: "More than anything else it is a history of the ways people in Western Europe visited, experienced, conceived, depicted, and shared their fascination with and inspiration by the burial place of Christ."

Writing in the book's introduction, the author notes: "Historians of the Church have not often investigated the subject: it is remarkable how little the tomb of Christ is mentioned in general histories. That is partly because it has largely disappeared from our contemporary culture. In spite of the importance of the historical Jerusalem in modern archaeology, tourism, and politics, there is not much awareness of it in Christian devotion." The author went on to write about how great the influence of the Sepulchre was in terms of remembering the sacrifice of Jesus. He writes that "objectively the Sepulchre at Jerusalem, or a relic from it, or a picture or copy of it, was a ‘memory’ that people could visit on pilgrimage or carry with them on their persons."

The author begins his examination in the year 325 and examines the consequences of Constantine's involvement in developing the Sepulchre. Morris then goes on to discuss how interest in the Sepulchre was disseminated throughout Western Europe from 350-600. He examines how the Sepulchre was a central theme of the Crusades and was indirectly responsible for a pattern of hostility that developed between the Muslim and Latin worlds. In chapter eight, he writes about the loss of the Holy Land and goes on in chapter nine to discuss how, beginning in the thirteenth century, the "great pilgrimage" became a standard of travel that reflected the changing character of devotion. The idea of the Great Pilgrimage, according to the author, lasted until the later Middle Ages and had contributed to the rise of a major genre of literature in the process. The author concludes with a discussion of the end of the pilgrimage over the period of 1530-1630, largely due to the development of "holy lands" in the West and the creation of Calvaries and "holy mountains" to act as new pilgrim sites closer to home.

Kieckhefer wrote in Church History that "this book is now the definitive work in its field," adding later in the same review that the author "has succeeded in giving us a fuller sense of how that wonder found expression among Western Europeans over centuries of shifting circumstance and cultural transformation." Other reviewers had even stronger praise for the book. "The merits of this magnificent book are so various that the reviewer's chief imperative must be to urge others to read it," wrote Nicholas Vincent in the Journal of Ecclesiastical History. Vincent also wrote in the same review: "The breadth of reference is simply astonishing and what Morris writes seem so self-evidently true that one is tempted to forget that before him no scholar has stated it with such clarity."



Morris, Colin, Pilgrimage: The English Experience from Becket to Bunyan, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2002.

Morris, Colin, The Sepulchre of Christ and the Medieval West: From the Beginning to 1600, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2005.


Albion, winter, 2004, Andrew Brown, review of Pilgrimage, p. 626.

Canadian Journal of History, December, 2004, Susan J. Ridyard, review of Pilgrimage, p. 574.

Catholic Historical Review, July, 1991, Glenn W. Olsen, review of The Papal Monarchy: The Western Church from 1050 to 1250, p. 503.

Choice, April, 2006, D.A. Michelson, review of The Sepulchre of Christ and the Medieval West, p. 1420.

Church History, December, 1990, Richard W. Pfaff, review of The Papal Monarchy, p. 543; December, 2003, Maiju Lehmijoki-Gardner, review of Pilgrimage, p. 888; March, 2006, Richard Kieckhefer, review of The Sepulchre of Christ and the Medieval West, p. 183.

English Historical Review, July, 1990, C.N.L. Brooke, review of The Papal Monarchy, p. 686; September, 2004, Margaret Aston, review of Pilgrimage, p. 987; April, 2006, C.J. Tyerman, review of The Sepulchre of Christ and the Medieval West, p. 509.

History: Review of New Books, winter, 2003, Christopher Ohan, review of Pilgrimage, p. 70.

History: The Journal of the Historical Association, October, 1990, H.E.J. Cowdrey, review of The Papal Monarchy, p. 472.

Journal of Ecclesiastical History, January, 2004, Claire Donovan, review of Pilgrimage, p. 145; April, 2006, Nicholas Vincent, review of The Sepulchre of Christ and the Medieval West, p. 312.

Journal of Religion, April, 1991, Michael Stoller, review of The Papal Monarchy, p. 259.

Journal of Theological Studies, April, 1992, Martin Brett, review of The Papal Monarchy, p. 274.

Medium Aevum, fall, 1990, B.E. Ferme, review of The Papal Monarchy, p. 336.

Reference & Research Book News, November, 2002, review of Pilgrimage, p. 15.

Renaissance Quarterly, winter, 2003, William Palmer, review of Pilgrimage, p. 1307.

Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies, October, 1992, Robert Brentano, review of The Papal Monarchy, p. 1014.

Times Literary Supplement, September 15, 1989, Alexander Murray, review of The Papal Monarchy, p. 1007; August 19, 2005, Robert E. Lerner, review of The Sepulchre of Christ and the Medieval West, p. 34.


H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online, (May 29, 2008), Gayle Gaskill, review of Pilgrimage.

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Morris, Colin 1928–

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