Old men often reflect on the errors of their youth and are seldom given the opportunity to correct or (alas) to repeat them. If, as I hope, this book does more of the former than the latter, it is almost entirely thanks to the students, colleagues (known and unknown) and friends who have read, written and argued about heresy in general and my heresies in particular for more than forty years. During that time, as the Afterword explains, the scholarly basis of our knowledge of medieval heresy has been transformed to such an extent that the whole story now needs to be retold, and its significance rethought, from the beginning.
The growth of heresy and accusations of heresy in Europe between 1000 and 1250 is the backdrop for some of the most spectacular and portentous events in medieval European history – the Albigensian Crusade, which subjected what is now the southern part of France to the French monarchy, persecution and mass burnings, the foundation of the papal inquisition. It is a story not only interesting for modern Europeans but also central to our history. It prompts serious questions that we still need to ask ourselves about how we got here and where we are going. I have therefore concentrated on the positive tasks of telling what happened and why, and making clear my reasons for thinking so. Conversely, I have tried as far as possible to avoid the distraction (both for myself and the reader) of pointing out when and why I differ from my predecessors and colleagues, as I do repeatedly and often fundamentally. Such explanation is, of course, essential for scholars and scholarly purposes.
I have incurred specific and often heavy debts for answering questions, pointing to and even providing materials, and commenting on ideas and portions of draft to Stuart Airlie, Christine Caldwell Ames, Scott Ashley, Alan Bernstein, Jean-Louis Biget, Peter Biller, Christopher Brooke, Caterina Bruschi, Niall Campbell, Kate Cooper, John Gillingham, Bernard Hamilton, Edmund King, Robert Lerner, Anne E. Lester, Conrad Leyser, David Luscombe, Gerald Moore, Olivia Moore, Richard Moore, Claire Taylor, Bruce Venarde, John O. Ward and Anders Winroth. Hilbert Chiu and Monique Zerner have allowed me, with the greatest generosity, to make use of their unpublished and fundamental work. Maureen Miller has read several chapters, corrected many errors and taken pains to educate my eyes and ameliorate my ignorance of Italy. She has also been immensely helpful in identifying and securing illustrations. René Weis has read the whole book with a far better sense than mine of the readership I hope to reach. Mark Pegg has lived with it for almost as long as I have. It owes more than I can count to his learning and unstinting support at every point and in every way – above all, in time and in comradeship. To draw once again on the expertise and unfailing encouragement of John Davey has been a constant pleasure, as has been every aspect of being published by Profile.
It need hardly be said that none of these is in any degree responsible for my errors and opinions. Neither is A. E. Redgate, who has devoted countless painful hours to making my prose accessible. The dedication acknowledges much else besides.
R. I. Moore