On 27th March I caught a discussion on Melvyn Bragg's BBC Radio 4 programme In Our Time about the Dissolution of the Monasteries. I studied this period when I was at university as a mature student in the mid 80s but I have hardly thought about it since. This week, with my head full of social media as usual, I saw synergies that I'd not been able to make twenty years ago.
Consider the parallels: in the Middle Ages the monasteries were major international corporations, generating wealth, education, law, and power. Everything was lodged in, or connected to, an enormous European business / social network maintained by an ecology which combined stable stewardship of institutions with travel and learning undertaken by well-read and multilingual men and women. Their common languages of Latin and Greek enabled them to share ideas and co-create with ease, and they pretty well controlled all modes of communication and dissemination since in that pre-Gutenberg era the only way to publish was via copying in monastic scriptoria. These highly-networked institutions set the standards for pretty much everything from economics to social control.
The forces which led to their dissolution are many and complex, and I direct you here for that kind of detail. What I'm interested in is what happened after their dissolution, because I suspect some if it echoes with the impact of social media on our existing corporate structures today.