Gervase Rosser
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History and praise
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As much as it was a tangible construction of stone, wood and plaster, the medieval town was an idea in the minds of its inhabitants and of its visitors. Mythologised or romantic as they might be, ideas of the town's prestigious origins and present eminence influenced the ideals and actions of its population. The sources gathered in this chapter include examples of the currency and expression of such ideas. They also exemplify some of the ways in which a distinguished history and idealised image of the town circulated and became embedded in local culture. Liberally strewn with allusions to the antique world of Rome, William fitz-Stephen's text joins Christian hagiography to a classicising emulation of pre-Christian writers in the praise of cities. At the end of the period the celebratory allusions to the history of Exeter and of Bristol come from civic officials: a mayor and a town clerk.

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Towns in medieval England

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