This book is the first collection of translated sources on towns in medieval England between 1100 and 1500. Drawing on a variety of written evidence for the significan and dynamic period, it provides an overview of English medieval urban history. Readers are invited to consider the challenges and opportunities presented by a wide range of sources. The merchant, for example, is seen from different angles - as an economic agent, as a religious patron and in Chaucer's fictional depiction. The prominence of London and the other major cities is reflected in the selection, but due attention is also given to a number of small market towns. Occasions of conflict are represented, as are examples of groups and societies which both contributed to and helped to contain the tensions within urban society. Changing indicators of wealth and poverty are considered, together with evidence for more complex questions concerning the quality of life in the medieval town. The book moves between the experience of urban life and contemporary perceptions of it - from domestic furnishings to legends of civic origins and plays in which townspeople enacted their own history.
With characteristic honesty and intellectual rigour, Susan Reynolds has challenged the historians of Englishmedievaltowns to move on from the accumulation of evidence and ‘to think more about their reasoning, their assumptions, and the concepts that lie behind the words they use . . . . 1 She has not, herself, written directly about wards, whether in London or elsewhere, nor, for that matter, has anyone else except the indefatigable Webb partnership more than a hundred years ago. 2 Susan Reynolds’s own interests have moved away from English urban history
C.M. Barron, London in the Later Middle Ages.
Government and People 1200–1500 , Oxford, 2004, pp.
G. Rosser, ‘Myth, image and social
process in the Englishmedievaltown’, Urban History ,
Kümin, ‘Masses, morris and metrical
psalms’, p. 76. For Westminster and the parish of St Margarets
see Holt and Rosser (eds), EnglishMedievalTown , pp.
228–9. For parishes in south-eastern England see Johnston and
MacLean, ‘Reformation and resistance’. For a discussion
of the profession
a new degree of historical rigour in the interpretation of objects,
supported by an equal grasp of textual sources. 5 The individual archaeological find
cannot speak unaided: what is needed is a contextualised interpretation.
Such an integrated approach has informed the best work of recent decades
on Englishmedievaltowns. Pioneering and exemplary in this respect has been the
comprehensive survey of Winchester. 6 The
), Town Courts , pp. 176–199.
Jane Laughton provided an overview of women in Chester’s city courts: ‘Women in
court: some evidence from fifteenth-century Chester’ in Nicholas Rogers (ed.)
England in the Fifteenth Century (Stamford: Paul Watkins, 1994), pp.
On urban populations, rankings and the urban hierarchy, see Alan
Dyer, ‘Ranking lists of Englishmedievaltowns’ in D.M. Palliser (ed.), The Cambridge Urban History of Britain, vol.1 600–1540
HRO W/D1/13 rot. 10d.
Richard Holt and Nigel Baker, ‘Towards a geography of sexual
encounter: prostitution in Englishmedievaltowns’, in Lynne Bevan (ed.),
Indecent Exposure: Sexuality, Society and the Archaeological Record
(Glasgow: Cruithne Press, 2001), p. 205; Jones, Gender and Petty Crime , pp.
McIntosh, Controlling Misbehavior , pp. 98–99.
Jones, Gender and Petty Crime , p. 186
Journal , VII, 1981, pp. 125–43.
On such political use of popular culture see G.
Rosser, ‘Myth, image and social process in the Englishmedievaltown’, Urban History , XXIII, 1996, pp.
C. D. Liddy
celebration of Corpus Christi see
E. Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars (New Haven, 1992), pp. 43–4; M. Rubin, Charity and
Community in Medieval Cambridge (Cambridge, 1987), pp. 243–71; Rubin, Corpus Christi (Cambridge, 1991), pp. 213–87; Rosser, ‘Myth, image and social procession in the Englishmedievaltown’, Urban History 23 (1996), pp. 18–19, 21. St Margaret’s declining enthusiasm for the festival
may reflect a broader metropolitical trend: there is no evidence that the famed Corpus Christi
pageants, found in towns such as Coventry and York, took place in London or in a