DEATH FROM THE CONQUEST TO THE REFORMATION
The history of death and burial in England between 1066 and 1600 may be divided into three broad sections: the eleventh to mid-fourteenth century, the period between the Black Death and the Reformation (1348 to mid-sixteenth century), and the Reformation. The importance of these divisions is that they allow analysis of important themes concerning death and burial, of which the most important is theological change. In the twelfth century Purgatory was, for the first time, clearly defined, which led to a change in burial practice. The second major theological change was the Reformation, when many of the medieval religious beliefs were swept away and the emphasis was on the individual, the Bible and his or her faith. Almost exactly half-way between these changes was the Black Death, which arrived in England in 1348. The Black Death was possibly the worst catastrophe that the human population has ever suffered, and from then on mortality was given a much more prominent role in art and the population’s consciousness. Although the sources are very different for each period, some sort of understanding can be attempted as to what were the driving forces behind changes in death and burial.