Immigration in Medieval England

I don’t so much care to discuss current immigration politics, but since that is all the news is covering lately, I thought it would be interesting to look up what immigration was like in England during the Middle Ages. The following article from medievalists.net references England particularly during the 14th – 16th centuries. This period was after the Black Death when the population across Europe was significantly lower and there was a lot more work available.

According to research provided by the Universities of York and Sheffield, approximately 1% of the population of England during this time was made up of immigrants. Today that number is approximately 12% according to this study.

About one out of every hundred people in late medieval England was an immigrant, according to researchers at the universities of York and Sheffield. They have also launched a new database that offers details about 65,000 immigrants who lived in England between 1330 and 1550.

The England’s Immigrants project was created by these universities with support from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). It is led by Mark Ormrod, of the University of York’s Centre for Medieval Studies.

The database offers information on the names, origins, occupations and households of a significant number of foreigners who chose to live and work in England during the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries…

Read the full article at medievalists.net, which also provides links to the research database and other articles of interest.

Podcast Planet Money, Episode 742: Making Bank

From NPR:

During the Middle Ages, Christian pilgrims en route to Jerusalem had a problem. They needed to pay for food, transport and accommodation during their journey across Europe, which could take months. They also didn’t want to carry large amounts of precious coinage because they’d become a target for robbers. This became an obstacle to worship.

That’s where the Knights Templar stepped in. The Knights Templar were a bunch powerful monks who defended Christian pilgrims. They had a solution to this cash issue. Pilgrims could leave money safely protected with the Knights Templar in England and withdraw it in Jerusalem. No cash needed. Pilgrims could just carry a letter of credit. It was basically a private bank before there was anything else like it. This was a pretty modern idea.

Listen to the full podcast.

The truth behind medieval chivalry

From Kathleen McGarvey, University of Rochester:

Our popular ideas of the chivalric world are off base, according to historian Richard Kaeuper. The gallant knights on horseback and banners unfurling before exciting tournaments largely come from people in the 19th century who saw the Middle Ages through a romantic haze.

Chivalry was a violent, often grisly, phenomenon. “It’s hands-on cutting and thrusting. It’s a very bloody profession, and [people from the last several centuries] admire it to excess,” says Kaeuper, a professor at the University of Rochester. But he also insists that chivalry is more than a timeless warrior code.

Read more…

Ghostly faces and invisible verse found in medieval King Arthur text

From Fox News:

Ghostly faces and lines of verse previously invisible to the naked eye have been uncovered in the oldest surviving medieval manuscript written entirely in Welsh.

“The Black Book of Carmarthen,” dating to 1250, contains texts from the ninth through 12th centuries, including some of the earliest references to Arthur and Merlin.

Read more…

Why Are the Middle Ages Often Characterized as Dark or Less Civilized?

Good article by Tim O’Neill, M.A. in medieval literature, regarding several misconceptions about the medieval period.

It’s clear that there was a collapse in learning and much technical capacity as a result of the fragmentation and chaos that followed the fall of the Roman Empire in Western Europe. In places such as southern Gaul or northern Spain, this collapse was a slow decline over several hundred years. In others, such as Britain, it was much more sudden and catastrophic. Modern surveys of archaeological and documentary evidence, such as those summarized by Bryan Ward-Perkins in The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization show that this means a clear decline in material culture and technical capacity between the later Roman era and the seventh century.

The myth of the Middle Ages as a “dark age” does not lie in the fact that things declined markedly after the fall of Rome—they did. It lies in the idea that this situation persisted until the dawning of something called “the Renaissance,” which somehow rescued Western Europe from the clutches of the Catholic Church, revived ancient Greek and Roman learning, reinvented “good” (i.e. realistic) art and made everything OK again.

This is the part of the story that is the myth.

Read the full article: “Why Are the Middle Ages Often Characterized as Dark or Less Civilized?

*Cover photo by Wigulf, licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License

Britain Begins by Barry Cunliffe

Britain-Begins-Barry-CunliffeBritain Begins by Barry Cunliffe

Paperback: 568 pages
Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (January 1, 2014)
ISBN-10: 0199679452

Product Description:

The last Ice Age, which came to an end about 12,000 years ago, swept the bands of hunter gatherers from the face of the land that was to become Britain and Ireland, but as the ice sheets retreated and the climate improved so human groups spread slowly northwards, re-colonizing the land that had been laid waste. From that time onwards Britain and Ireland have been continuously inhabited and the resident population has increased from a few hundreds to more than 60 million.

Britain Begins is nothing less than the story of the origins of the British and the Irish peoples, from around 10,000BC to the eve of the Norman Conquest. Using the most up to date archaeological evidence together with new work on DNA and other scientific techniques which help us to trace the origins and movements of these early settlers, Barry Cunliffe offers a rich narrative account of the first islanders – who they were, where they came from, and how they interacted one with another. Underlying this narrative throughout is the story of the sea, which allowed the islanders and their continental neighbours to be in constant contact.

The story told by the archaeological evidence, in later periods augmented by historical texts, satisfies our need to know who we are and where we come from. But before the development of the discipline of archaeology, people used what scraps there were, gleaned from Biblical and classical texts, to create a largely mythological origin for the British. Britain Begins also explores the development of these early myths, which show our ancestors attempting to understand their origins. And, as Cunliffe shows, today’s archaeologists are driven by the same desire to understand the past – the only real difference is that we have vastly more evidence to work with.

Rating: 4.5 stars on Amazon (21 reviews)

The Pagan Lord by Bernard Cornwell

The Pagan Lord by Bernard Cornwell
Series: Saxon Tales
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Harper; Reprint edition (January 7, 2014)
ISBN-10: 0061969702

New York Times bestselling author Bernard Cornwell returns to his epic Saxon Tales saga with The Pagan Lord, a dramatic story of divided loyalties, bloody battles, and the struggle to unite Britain.

At the onset of the tenth century, England is in turmoil. Alfred the Great is dead and Edward his son reigns as king. Wessex survives but peace cannot hold: the Danes in the north, led by Viking Cnut Longsword, stand ready to invade and will never rest until the emerald crown is theirs.

Uhtred, once Alfred’s great warrior but now out of favor with the new king, must lead a band of outcasts north to recapture his old family home, that great Northumbrian fortress, Bebbanburg.

In The Pagan Lord, loyalties will be divided and men will fall, as every Saxon kingdom is drawn into the bloodiest battle yet with the Danes; a war which will decide the fate of every king, and the entire English nation.

Rating on Amazon: 4.5 stars

Read my reviews on the other novels in the Saxon Tales:

Once I read The Pagan Lord, I will post my review of it as well.

Richard III laid to rest

From Yahoo News:

King Richard III of England will be laid back to rest in a wooden coffin sealed inside a tomb made of Swaledale fossil stone in Leicester Cathedral, the dean of the cathedral announced Monday (June 16)…

…The Plantagenet Alliance and its supporters argued that Richard III had adopted York as his hometown in life (he spent about a third of his 33 years in the city). Leicester, the scene of his ignominious burial in 1485, would not be the king’s choice of resting place, the group argued.

However, a British High Court ruled on May 23 that the University of Leicester had a valid exhumation license, and thus could reinter Richard’s remains.

Read the full story.

Related articles:

Bones of Swedish medieval king examined

From the AP:

UPPSALA, Sweden (AP) — Researchers from Uppsala University on Wednesday opened a small gilded box containing the skull and bones of Swedish King Erik IX, who became a national saint after he was murdered in 1160.

The researchers also removed the king’s burial crown, which is the oldest known royal crown in Sweden, to display it to the public for the first time.

Read more…

More links: 

Scientists pry open 850-year-old coffin holding murdered king – Fox News

Scholars Analyze Bones of Swedish Medieval King – ABC News