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Margins and marginality in fifteenth-century London

Citation: Berry, Charlotte (2018) Margins and marginality in fifteenth-century London. Doctoral thesis, University of London.

Berry Thesis.pdf

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Geographic and social marginality were connected in the pre-modern city. Property values, economic topography and transportation combined to create marginal spaces as distinctive transition zones between city and countryside. This thesis explores the complex relationship between marginal space and social marginalisation in fifteenthcentury London (1370-1540). It argues that extramural space produced communities which were particularly mobile, and that processes of social marginalisation were spatially informed. The thesis augments the secondary literature of late medieval London, which has often focussed on the city’s institutions and the lives of its citizens,by instead concentrating upon urban life outside the framework of the city government and livery companies. Such an approach is made possible through a combination of digital and quantitative methodologies with in-depth qualitative analysis. Using wills, property records and legal and administrative sources, as full a picture as possible is developed of life on the fringes of the medieval city. Chapter One introduces the themes of the thesis and provides an overview of the secondary literature. It discusses the existing understanding of the concept of ‘marginality’ within the thesis, and suggests a nuanced approach which views marginality as mutable and negotiated rather than being attached to fixed categories of individual. Chapter Two develops the concept of marginality further through close attention to key elements of London’s fringe; its topography, the distribution of wealth around the city and the religious houses which were sited there. The chapter establishes a framework for the meaning of spatial marginality and considers the ambiguities resulting from the patchwork of liberties and precincts interrupting urban space. Chapter Three is an analysis of society and economy on the fringes of the city. It focuses on four parishes; St. Botolph Aldgate, St. Botolph Aldersgate, St. Botolph Bishopsgate, All Hallows London Wall and St. Katharine Cree. Using wills and property records, the chapter argues that property values were generally lower outside the city walls but this did not simply mean that entirely poor suburbs developed. Instead, people were drawn to these neighbourhoods by the mixture of ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors. In the later fifteenth century, significant landowners invested in the building of cheap rents, particularly outside Bishopsgate. However, other neighbourhoods were particularly attractive to prosperous artisans and aristocratic elites because of the availability of large properties. Chapter Four analyses social networks and spatial connections. It does so primarily using wills. Social Network Analysis (SNA) is used to make comparisons between different cohorts of testators and suggest the complex of factors which could weaken and strengthen community at the margins. Visualisation of bequest patterns using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) suggests that testators had highly localised understandings of urban space, prioritising their own part of the city. Such visualisation also suggests that extramural neighbourhoods had close economic and social ties with the immediate hinterland along their approach road. Chapter Five discusses the importance of mobility in extramural society. Consistory court records, an under-utilised source for the history of mobility, provide unique insights into the ways that people moved around city space and the degree of migration amongst London’s population. It argues that mobility was an unstable period of life, especially for the poor, which was likely to endanger their reputations. Nonetheless, moving around was an important strategy for survival, as demonstrated by the experiences of women who suffered domestic abuse and others ostracised from neighbourhood communities. Chapter Six focuses on processes of social marginalisation and policing. It argues that the neighbourhood was the key venue for the building and dissemination of reputation, and that it was not just the ‘middling sort’ who were engaged in doing so. Authority was exerted through informal and formal means by the householders who formed wardmote juries but also, at the margins of the city, by the leaders of religious houses. The spatial ambiguities of the fringes also created particular opportunities for people to avoid policing or damage to their reputations through tactical use of precinct space.

Creators: Berry, Charlotte (0000-0001-8360-5707) and
Subjects: History
Keywords: London Marginality, social Social history London, Medieval fifteenth century
Divisions: Institute of Historical Research
Collections: Theses and Dissertations
  • 1 April 2018 (completed)


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