Esther Liberman Cuenca, PhD candidate in History, recently published an article in Urban History (Cambridge University Press) titled “Town clerks and the authorship of custumals in medieval England”. Below is her abstract and a link to the article.
This article examines the expertise and duties of clerks in medieval English towns, particularly their roles in creating custumals, or collections of written customs. Customs could regulate trade, of ce-holding, prostitution and even public nuisance. Many clerks were anonymous, and their contributions to custumals understudied. The careers of relatively well-known clerks, however, do provide insights into how some clerks shaped custumals into civic repositories of customary law. By analysing their oaths and known administrative practices, which involved adapting material from older custumals, this article argues that town clerks played critical roles in transmitting customary law to future generations of administrators.
Town clerks and the authorship of custumals in medieval England
(l-r) Wolfgang Mueller, Kristin Uscinski, David Myers and Maryanne Kowaleski
This past week Kristin Uscinski successfully defended her dissertation, entitled “Recipes for Women’s Healthcare in Medieval England”. Kristin’s mentor was Professor Maryanne Kowaleski, her readers were Professors Wolfgang Mueller and David Myers and Examiners were Professors Claire Gherini and Nicholas Paul.
In addition to defending, Kristin’s research also got a great write-up in Fordham News– go check it out!
The Ruins at Bury St. Edmunds
Thanks to the History Department’s Leahey fellowship for summer travel, graduate student and medievalist Louisa Foroughi was able to spend five weeks in June and July visiting archives in England and Scotland (with a very brief Welsh detour!). Louisa’s dissertation focuses on the origins and social significance of the English “yeomen,” a group situated at the mid-point of the social scale, who made their first appearance in the early fifteenth century and quickly rose to prominence under the Tudors. She spent ten days in London and Chester tracking down a yeomen family from a small town near Chester, during which time she snuck in a quick jaunt across the Welsh border, a mere 30 minute walk from the city walls! She spent a further two weeks gathering probate records in local record offices in Norwich, Bury St. Edmunds, and Ipswich, all favorite haunts. She is now in possession of c. 377 wills and inventories produced by husbandmen, yeomen, and gentlemen from 1348-1538, one of the three main document times upon which her dissertation will be based. While in England, Louisa also presented a paper on Archbishops’ Registers at the International Medieval Congress at Leeds and attended the Anglo-American Seminar with Professor Maryanne Kowaleski. She is happy to be back in the US, and looks forward to finally being able to answer the question, “what is a yeomen?”
Robin Fleming (Boston College)
This Friday at 3:00 p.m., Fordham’s Center for Medieval Studies and the New York Botanical Garden are pleased to host Professor Robin Fleming of Boston College, recipient of the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship (also known as the “genius grant”), for her talk “Vanishing Plants, Animals, and Places: Britain’s Transformation from Roman to Medieval,” which uses material culture and environmental history to reveal heretofore unknown aspects of early medieval Britain. Due to the paucity of contemporary written sources, Fleming’s alternative approach, part of an emerging trend in research on the period, ought to provide truly novel insight. Appropriately, the talk will take place at the Mertz Library in the New York Botanical Garden and will be followed by an exhibit of medieval and early modern herbals. This opportunity is not to be missed! Event details below:
Vanishing Plants, Animals, and Places: Britain’s Transformation from Roman to Medieval
Humanities Institute, Mertz Library, New York Botanical Garden
Friday, September 30, 3:00 pm
Louisa Foroughi confers with Professor Bruce Campbell
From July 8th to 11th Fordham Professor Maryanne Kowaleski and graduate student Louisa Foroughi attended the XIIth Annual Anglo-American Seminar on the Medieval Economy and Society, held this year in Stirling, Scotland. The Anglo-American Seminar is a long-standing gathering of some of the most distinguished economic and social historians in England and America. This year’s presentations drew attention to new directions in research, while its panel discussion featured lively debate about the relationship between government policy and England’s economy in the late middle ages. Professor Kowaleski closed the conference with a fascinating paper on the political participation and consciousness of mariners in late medieval England, part of her larger work on England’s seamen and coastal communities. A highlight of this year’s Seminar was a (rainy!) walking tour of the town of Stirling, all the way from the castle at the top of the hill to the fish stews at its base, led by Professor Richard Oram, who also opened the conference with an excellent talk on the environmental history of Scotland and its neglected relationship to political history. Louisa especially benefited from the opportunity to meet and talk over her thesis with experts in their field, such as Prof. Bruce Campbell, who was also honored with the presentation of a festschrift at the conference.
Seventeenth Century Judgment of the Jurors of Romney Marsh Concerning the Sale of Soil for Sea-Wall
Huntington Library Battle Abbey Collections 56 A
Photograph by Tobias Hrynick
Our latest postcard comes courtesy of PhD student Tobias Hrynick:
This July, I was able to attend the Mellon Summer Institute in English Paleography at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California. The Institute consisted of a month of afternoon course-work on reading early modern handwriting, lead by Dr. Heather Wolfe, of the Folger Library. In the mornings, I was able to explore the Huntington’s extensive collection of manorial records of Battle Abbey, a Benedictine foundation in Sussex. The research opportunities and training provided by the Institute have contributed to my ongoing research project on the drainage and agricultural exploitation of south-eastern English marshes, since the Battle Abbey collection at the Huntington contains extensive documentation of Battle’s lands on Pevensey Marsh with occasional reference to other marshes in the region, and because an understanding of early modern hands is a key tool in unraveling the early modern scholarship through which our understanding of medieval marshes has been mediated.
Texts from Battle Abbey reveal a number of peculiar features of wetland charters. Notable is the occasional use of the slightly larger Flemish acre to measure wetland holdings, suggestive of influence from the Low Countries in medieval English wetland exploitation. Also interesting is the careful attention given to responsibilities toward marsh drainage when wetlands were being transferred – one gift of marsh to Battle Abbey specified not only that it would be the monks who were responsible for maintaining the drainage ditch on the edge of the property, but even onto which side of the ditch they were to cast dirt when they dredged it.
Munger Research Center, Huntington Library
Photograph by Tobias Hrynick