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History in Focus

the guide to historical resources • Issue 13: The City •

The City

Book cover: London in the Later Middle Ages: Government and People, 1200-1500

Author's response


London in the Later Middle Ages: Government and People, 1200-1500

by Caroline M. Barron
Clarendon Press, Oxford, 2004
ISBN-13: 978-0-19-925777-5; 472 pages, price £68.00

Barbara Hanawalt

Ohio State University

I am extremely grateful to Professor Hanawalt for this careful, painstaking and generous review. It is particularly gratifying to win praise from an historian who has herself worked in the London archives and has made significant contributions to our understanding of the lives of children, and of women, in the medieval city.

Professor Hanawalt has drawn attention to my not having sought to place London within a comparative context. It is indeed true that I made few comparisons between London and other European cities, whether in Britain or on the Continent. Such a comparative study is indeed greatly to be desired and I hope that my book will be able to be used by other historians who are willing to undertake this task. Some comparative work has, in fact, already been done in the first volume of The Cambridge Urban History of Britain published in 2000,(1) and David Nicholas drew on a wide range of comparative urban material in The Later Medieval City 1300-1500 published in 1997, although the main focus of his work was on the towns of Italy, Flanders, France and Germany. Such comparative studies can be extremely illuminating, as can be seen in the current work of Professor Derek Keene and the other researchers at the Centre for Metropolitan History in the University of London.

There are a couple of minor points on which Professor Hanawalt has misread my text. John Carpenter and William Dunthorne were not chamberlains of London, but common clerks (see pp. 185-88, 364). And on the vexed question of the size of London's population, Professor Hanawalt writes that I accept an estimate of London's population at 100,000 or higher, which she, rightly, thinks improbable. What I actually wrote in discussing Derek Keene's work on Cheapside and the conclusions that he drew from his material about the size of London's population was this:

If building densities in other parts of London in 1300 mirror those of 1600, we shall have to accept that the population of the city in 1300 may have been as high as 100,000, i.e. the rival of Florence or Paris. It seems likely that the minimum figure for the population of London in 1300 was 50,000 and that the likely size was nearer 80,000 (p. 238 and see also footnote 5).

But these are minor points and I would like to reiterate my gratitude to Professor Hanawalt, who is currently particularly busy in her role as President of the Medieval Academy of America, for taking the time to read London in the Later Middle Ages and to write such a measured and thoughtful review.

  1. P. Clarke ed., The Cambridge Urban History of Britain, 3 vols. Vol. 1, 600-1540, ed. D. Palliser (Cambridge, 2000). Back to (1)

November 2004

Original review

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