Cultural contact
in Immigrant England, 1300–1550
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Chapter 9 is the first of two chapters that consider the cultural aspects of the topic of immigration to later medieval England. It eschews the language of ‘assimilation’ and instead considers degrees of acculturation, stressing not only that the lives of immigrants were altered by the process of movement but that English culture (and ‘Englishness’ itself) were influenced and changed by the immigrant presence. After reviewing contemporary understandings of national characteristics, and the various (and often derogatory) stereotypes that the English used for their European neighbours, it considers those who effectively changed nationality (whether through denization or through other means) in the given period and whether their change of status can be seen to have been an affective, or merely a pragmatic, process. The chapter then proceeds to consider the internationalism of the royal court and its patronage of alien writers, musicians and artists. Next, it considers the role of language and the methods by which immigrants acquired various degrees of understanding of the English vernacular. Finally, the chapter reviews the evidence of immigrants’ personal names as represented in English government records and considers what these can tell us about the perpetuation or loss of ‘foreign’ identities.

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