Information and Lived Religion in Inquisition Records from Medieval Languedoc

Research output: Book/ReportDoctoral thesisMonograph


This thesis is about information and lived religion in the context of religious dissent and the inquisitorial persecution of heresy in thirteenth- and early fourteenth-century Languedoc. By combining perspectives from information history and the study of lived religion, the thesis responds to demands for more attention to be paid to the daily realities of Languedocian lay people involved in alleged heresy. The focus is on the multifaceted information behaviour of the lay supporters and sympathizers of the so-called good men (known traditionally as the Cathars), whom the Catholic church deemed heretics.

The thesis is based on a close reading of inquisitorial interrogation records and sentences drawn from the vast corpus of inquisitorial documents extant from medieval Languedoc. Due to inquisitorial interest in networks of dissident communication, inquisitorial sources contain ample evidence of dissidence-related information behaviour.

The thesis is divided into two thematic halves. The first half explores the practical information dimension of dissident lived religion by studying how the social organization of dissidence-related activities relied on the flow of information driven by the information behaviour of the Languedocian laity. The second half examines the spiritual information dimension of dissident lived religion by investigating how the Languedocian laity was exposed to the heterodox teachings of the good men and how lay people engaged with this alternative religious information. Taken as a whole, the thesis constitutes a systematic study of organic, social, and primarily oral lay information behaviour in the context of dissident lived religion in medieval Languedoc to the extent that it is visible in inquisitorial evidence.

Alongside the thematic investigation of dissidence-related information behaviour, the thesis also utilizes the concept of information to elucidate source critical issues related to the use of inquisitorial documents and to develop methodological guidelines for their analysis. It frames the central methodological question in terms of information flow from the past into the present and approaches inquisitorial evidence as materially embedded information shaped and conditioned by a multi- stage sequence during which several historical actors acquired, processed, and transmitted information. Building on these insights, the thesis formulates a theoretical framework that facilitates an understanding of the epistemological implications of the different stages, actors, variables, and dynamics that influenced the construction of information extant in inquisitorial documents.

By demonstrating the conceptual applicability of information to both the substance and the method of historical inquiry, the thesis seeks to historicize information as a phenomenon and proposes the adoption of information as a new conceptual tool for historiographical practice.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationTampere
Publication statusPublished - 2023
Publication typeG4 Doctoral dissertation (monograph)


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