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HS5200 Medieval London

Late Medieval London: Government, Economy and Society (HS5200)

Instructor: Dr Clive Burgess

To be taught in the History Department, McCrea Building, Royal Holloway, Egham, on Wednesdays 10-12.

Despite the onslaught of the plague in the mid fourteenth century, London remained by far the largest, the most populous and the wealthiest city in England. Its population may have been sustained by constant immigration, but its institutions had developed in a manner that sustained and consolidated its distinctive character and, in the fifteenth century, the city went on to flourish commercially and increasingly dominated the English economy. In many respects, London has never faltered since. This course, then, analyses London at a particularly formative time. It looks at the way in which it was governed, at the ways in which it organised the behaviour of its citizens and at the developments in its commercial life in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. It attempts, too, to integrate the City’s religious life into an understanding of its broader social fabric, and as an integral part of this will consider both educational provision and the access that Londoners had to books. The course also asks what it was like to live in medieval London - how clean were its streets, how did its citizens feed themselves and how did they entertain themselves? As well as considering heresy and revolt within the city in the later fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the course will also devote attention to the important questions of the contribution made both by women and by young people to the economic and social life of England’s capital city. Students will work from a variety of historical texts for each session, and will make class presentations two or three times a term. A detailed reading list will be provided. Most books are available in the Royal Holloway library (Egham campus) and in London at the Senate House Library, the Institute of Historical Research and the Guildhall Library.

Introductory reading:

Barron, Caroline M., London in the Later Middle Ages (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004)

Benson, L. D., ed., The Riverside Chaucer (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987)

Strohm, P., Social Chaucer (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 1989)

Thrupp, Sylvia, The Merchant Class of Medieval London, 1300-1500 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1962)

Wallace, D., ed., The Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999)


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