Ramsey: The Lives of an English Fenland Town, 1200–1600
Catholic University of America Press
, Jan 1, 2006
- 455 pages
In a vividly detailed study of the small English market town of Ramsey, the authors examine the inner life of this fascinating community from the twelfth century to the end of the sixteenth century. The book centers on the lives of medieval men and women and explores their social roles activities, family relationships, and religion. It also considers the spatial and social boundaries that existed between the town's lord--the rich and powerful Benedictine monastery of Ramsey Abbey--and its tenants. In consulting a rich and varied collection of archives from both the town and abbey, the authors have ably produced one of the most comprehensive and multi-layered portraits of everyday living in medieval and early modern England. The people of Ramsey included clerics, knights, and laborers, and their activities overlapped to the point that the infamous tripartite division of medieval society--into those who prayed, fought, and worked--becomes meaningless. Social roles were fluid, and even the boundaries that separated landlords and tenants were regularly breached. During the turbulent fourteenth century, Ramsey was a community where, despite real grievances and suspicions, lord and town managed to work together with grudging respect. The book also crosses chronological boundaries, moving through decades of rebellion, plague, demographic turnover, violence, bloodshed, and war, and ending with religious upheaval that spelled the death of the 600-year-old abbey and the intrusion of an ambitious new lay landlord with courtly connections. This crossing of boundaries invites discussion of local politics and asks questions relating to the nature and process of state formation. The story of thismedieval town brings to light the names and activities of thousands of individuals who moved in and out of Ramsey, shaping its destiny, as the scribes provided them--however briefly--with their own brand of immortality.