Field knowledge in gentry households
‘Pears on a willow’?
in Household knowledges in late-medieval England and France
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This chapter offers a broad perspective on the tradition of agricultural and estates management literature in England that affords special consideration to the books in which works belonging to this tradition circulated. Examining texts dating from the twelfth to the sixteenth centuries, Kuipers determines that, whereas the earliest agricultural texts would seem to have little to do with the practicalities of farming, treating instead the legal or administrative aspects of landownership, or offering instruction in the French and Latin necessary to participate in the written culture of landowning, later texts demonstrate an increasing interest in practical matters. This interest would culminate in such sixteenth-century manuals as Fitzherbert’s Boke of Husbandry (1523), which contains long descriptions of farming tools for the uninitiated gentleman farmer. In the period directly before the introduction of the early modern manuals, there flourished a kind of hybrid agricultural and estates management text that gestured towards practicality as well as serving other social and aesthetic purposes. Kuipers examines the circulation of a selection of these texts in manuscript household books and discusses the ramifications of their compilation alongside works belonging to other genres, principally romances and conduct texts.

Editors: Glenn Burger and Rory Critten

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