Premodern Places

Wallace, David
Date published: 
May 2006

This book recovers places in the mental mapping of medieval and Renaissance writers, from Chaucer to Aphra Behn. Beginning with Calais, peopled by the English from 1347 to 1558, and ending with Surinam, traded away for Manhattan in 1667, this well-illustrated book recreates the distinctive cultural life of a range of locations: from Flanders, which led the world in technological innovation; to Somerset, which provided a fitting home for Dante; to the Canaries (the Fortunate Islands), which formed the limits of western dreaming. The book's exploration of premodern places features fascinating vignettes, such as an English merchant learning love songs in Calais, coupled with insights into broader economic narratives of political, technological, religious, and economic change. In particular, it provides long geneaologies of blackness and whiteness, race and slavery, in the premodern world.