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The Story of Margery Kempe for AP World History

Cate O'Donnell

2 min read

Dec 31, 2023

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The Story of the Christian mystic, Margery Kempe, is an illustrative example in the Cultural Consequences of Connectivity topic of Unit 2 of AP World History. Read more about Margery Kempe below!



page from The Book of Margery Kempe
page from The Book of Margery Kempe/public domain


Margery Kempe, a medieval Englishwoman, mystic, and author, emerges as a unique figure in the late Middle Ages. Her autobiography, “The Book of Margery Kempe,” provides a rare glimpse into the spiritual and personal life of a devout woman in a time when such perspectives were seldom recorded. This passage explores the life, experiences, and impact of Margery Kempe in the context of the late 14th and early 15th centuries.


Margery Kempe was born around 1373 in the bustling market town of King’s Lynn, England. Little is known about her early life, but in 1393, she married John Kempe, a respected citizen and a man of some wealth. Their marriage, marked by financial difficulties and Margery’s spiritual yearnings, set the stage for her transformative religious experiences.


Margery Kempe began to experience intense religious visions, which she believed were encounters with divine figures, including Christ and the Virgin Mary. These mystical experiences led her to a heightened state of religious devotion, but they also brought her into conflict with societal norms. Margery’s outward expressions of piety, including weeping and loud prayers, drew attention and skepticism from her community.


Driven by her religious fervor, Margery embarked on a series of pilgrimages, visiting holy sites across Europe, including Jerusalem, Rome, and Santiago de Compostela. Her journeys were characterized by a profound sense of religious ecstasy and a desire to seek spiritual guidance from renowned religious figures. Margery’s travels allowed her to engage with various religious communities, from anchorites to friars, and provided her with a platform to share her spiritual experiences.


Around 1436, Margery dictated her spiritual autobiography to a scribe, creating “The Book of Margery Kempe.” This work is considered the first English autobiography and offers a unique perspective on the challenges faced by a mystic woman in a patriarchal society. In her writings, Margery describes her visions, struggles with societal judgment, and the challenges of balancing her mystical experiences with her roles as a wife and mother.


Margery Kempe’s outspoken religious expressions and unconventional behavior garnered both admiration and skepticism. She faced accusations of heresy and endured legal challenges, but her persistence in sharing her mystical experiences remained undeterred. Little is known about her later years, but her legacy endured through her writings and the impact of her spiritual journey on subsequent generations of readers and mystics.


Margery Kempe’s life and writings enrich our understanding of medieval spirituality, offering a perspective that transcends conventional historical narratives. Her journey as a mystic, pilgrim, and author challenges the boundaries of gender and societal expectations, making her a compelling figure in the late Middle Ages. Margery Kempe’s legacy endures through her contributions to medieval literature and her role in shaping discussions on mysticism and piety in the late medieval period.



Printable Reading Passage on Margery Kempe

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Margery Kempe



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The Effects of Cross-Cultural Interactions

Unit 2: Networks of Exchange

AP World History




Margery Kempe

#APWorldHistory #MargeryKempe

Cate O'Donnell

2 min read

Dec 31, 2023

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0

0

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