Publication Date



work, faith, English abbeys


This paper discusses various occupations held by nuns in the late-medieval and early-modern English convent, and argues that while the nuns did have extraordinary opportunities for self-management when compared to secular women, nuns carried out those responsibilities in part as extensions and expressions of their faith. This paper looks at offices held by the nuns at Barking Abbey in Essex, from the late Medieval period up to the Abbey’s dissolution in the sixteenth century as a result of the shifting political and religious sands under King Henry VIII. Barking Abbey was a large, wealthy institution that needed capable administration, and for its officer-nuns this meant high levels of responsibility. Though management opportunities may have garnered respect for the women, this paper asserts that any work the nuns did was seen in the light of centuries-old monastic traditions that viewed labor as both a way to ensure their institution’s survival and a way to get closer to God.