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The English medieval town by Colin Platt

The English medieval town

by Colin Platt

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The English Mediaeval Town, Colin Platt, Granada Publishing, 1979, paperback reprint 1981.
  pa-roots | Jul 8, 2013 |
The English mediæval town, written by Colin Pratt in 1976, is a look at town life in the Middle Ages. Seven chapters cover the beginnings of town life in Anglo-Saxon Britain to the Reformation, with information on the town itself, government and the relationship with the crown, trades and the church. The text is written in a dense and scholarly style and there are copious endnotes, an extensive bibliography and many illustrations, plans and maps.

The author, who is a scholar studying town life and archaeology of Southampton, does not define the terms so a dictionary will be handy for the layman. Words do not mean the same, an example being burgess which is simply a citizen of a British borough; in the US, it is a term used for a representative in the legislatures of Virginia and Maryland. Burgage, a term new to me, was “the tenure by which real property in England and Scotland was held under the king or a lord for a yearly rent or for watching and warding.”—Webster’s ninth new collegiate dictionary. And there were many more terms for me to look up.

The illustrations were a high point of the book and I spent a lot of time with magnifying glass in hand studying the maps of many English towns by John Speed, originally published in 1611. Just as fascinating were the aerial views of the cities today, showing the medieval basis for street layout. The plans of buildings, showing the ordinary houses (or tenements) as well as churches, were very helpful in understanding the text. The photographs of existing buildings also brought the text alive. One thing that was disconcerting was the constant flipping from text in chapter 2 to illustrations in other chapters. The author also did not attribute the source of the illustrations with them; instead, you had to go to the list of illustrations in the front of the book.

This is not a book for the average layman but for those who persevere and read it, it is well worth the effort. ( )
2 vote fdholt | Sep 15, 2011 |
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