Caritas: Neighbourly Love and the Early Modern Self

Caritas: Neighbourly Love and the Early Modern Self

BARCLAY, Katie, Caritas: Neighbourly Love and the Early Modern Self. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021, 217pp. [ISBN 978-0-19-886813-2]


“Caritas, a form of divine grace that transformed neighbourly love into moral action, was a key concept in early modern Europe, guiding ideas about morality, the self, and becoming an embodied ethic. This book introduces the concept of an ‘emotional ethic’ to help explain the role of caritas in early modern communities, where love was not simply how one should feel about one’s neighbour but the ways that our bodies and emotions guide us to ethical action. It explores how an emotional ethic operates through a study of how caritas was deployed amongst the lower orders in eighteenth-century Scotland. With chapters that focus on marriage, childhood and youth, ‘sinful sex’, privacy and secrecy, and hospitality towards the itinerant poor, the ways in which caritas was learned and deployed as part of everyday social practice are highlighted. Caritas enjoined Christians to modesty, chastity, control of dress, and passion, but also to a generous love and care, imagined in familial terms. As an ethic that was enacted through the body, caritas produced a particular form of sociable self. Over the eighteenth century, new ideas of romantic love, as well as more secular social emotions like fraternity and benevolence, offered alternative mechanisms for justifying feeling and behaviour. This book explores how new ideas about emotion intertwined with an older model of neighbourly love, explaining not only deviant behaviours but also how the self came to be formed in this new context.”


Reference in the CHSC library: 16-6-11