Book on Bede by Dr. Richard Shaw at MV Public Library

Richard Shaw (Photo submitted)

Local resident, Dr. Richard Shaw, has written a new book – The Gregorian Mission to Kent in Bede’s Ecclesiastical History: Methodology and Sources. In it, Dr. Shaw identifies and analyzes the sources of Saint Bede, long seen as the foremost historian of the Gregorian mission, and assesses how he used those sources in constructing his account of both the Gregorian mission as well as the church in Kent before the arrival of Saint Theodore.

Historians have long relied on Bede’s Ecclesiastical History for their narrative of early Christian Anglo-Saxon England, but what material lay behind Bede’s own narrative had remained largely unanswered? What were his sources and how reliable were they? How much was based on contemporary material? How much on later evidence? What was rhetoric? What represents his own agendas, deductions or even inventions?


Shaw’s book, published by Routledge, a leading academic publisher in the humanities and social sciences, represents the first systematic attempt to answers these questions for Bede’s History, taking as a test case the coherent narrative of the Gregorian mission and the early Church in Kent. Through this critique, it becomes possible, for the first time, to catalogue Bede’s sources and assess their origins, provenance and value – even reconstructing the original shape of many that are now lost.

This book reveals Bede the historian at work, with implications for understanding his monastery, library and intellectual milieu together with the world in which he lived and worked.

Dr. Shaw has lived in Barry’s Bay, working as Chairman of the History Department at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College, since 2013. He joined the St Francis Memorial Hospital Board of Directors in 2017 and serves on the Governance Committee. Previously, Dr. Shaw was a diplomat for the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office where he specialized in Middle East issues and worked in Jordan. He obtained his doctorate from the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto. He has published on Antony of Egypt, Cassiodorus, Gregory of Tours, Augustine of Canterbury, Bede, Ælfric of Eynsham, Thomas Aquinas and François de Laval. In 2014 he was awarded the Eusebius Essay Prize by the Journal of Ecclesiastical History and was shortlisted for the 2016 Medium Ævum Essay Prize. Richard completed his first two degrees at Oxford University where he met his wife Dr. Christine Shaw, an archaeologist by training, who now homeschools their five children. Richard and his family are very involved in events and activities in the Madawaska Valley community in which they are glad to live and play an enthusiastic part.

Dr. Shaw will be at The Madawaska Valley Public Library on Monday, April 9th at 7:00 pm. This will be an opportunity to hear more about the book from the author and to ask any questions about it.














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