Gervase Rosser
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Social development
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This chapter contains an introduction and a selection of translated and annotated texts on social development. Urban society in the Middle Ages was in some important ways very like that of the countryside. The social experience of the town differed from that of its rural surroundings by virtue of its concentrated diversity and its fluidity. Late medieval observers often declared that they were looking at significant social change in the form of inferior artisans and their wives who affected the manners and dress of their betters. An element in the urban population prior to the end of the thirteenth century, the history of which was both tragically unique and yet absolutely characteristic, was the Jews. Following the Norman Conquest, Jewish settlers scattered themselves through sixty English towns. From well before the Conquest, English towns were home to longterm and short-term settlers from all other parts of Christendom.

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Towns in medieval England

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