Monthly Archives: August 2023

Reflections On Dissolving Kinship in the Early Middle Ages

by Dr Becca Grose and Dr Alex Traves (University of York) Kinship is often treated as a social phenomenon that binds people together permanently through the creation of mutual ties, obligations, and emotions between individuals. Over the last decades, work on family and kinship in the early Middle Ages has addressed the basis of this claim through considering two key issues: i) how new types of kinship ties emerged in the early Middle Ages; ii) how far early medieval kinship was derived from spiritual or blood ties. However, what has been studied much less thoroughly is the way in which kinship can also be used to separate as much as bring together. Kinship ties were not always as permanent as might be inferred, and it was exploring these moments of separation, or potential separation, that this two-day workshop (held 1st-2nd June 2023 at King’s Manor, University of York) focused on. The workshop brought together scholars based in the UK, France, Switzerland, Denmark, and the USA, thanks to the generosity of the Past & Present Society, the Department of History, University of York, and the Centre for Medieval Studies, University of York. It aimed to identify moments where kinship might be […]

‘The Rabble that Cannot Read’? Ordinary People’s Literacy in Seventeenth-Century England

by Dr. Mark Hailwood (University of Bristol) Those of us historians intent on exploring the world of ordinary women and men in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries conduct a lot of our research by looking at surviving examples of what such people read–for instance, cheap printed broadside ballads–or of what they wrote–take, say, Joseph Bufton’s notebooks. These materials are fascinating and undoubtedly useful, but regular readers of this blog might understandably find themselves wondering about the validity of this approach, and asking themselves a simple but important question: to what extent could the lower classes of England actually read and write in the seventeenth century? It’s a fair question, and has important implications. Matters which I explore in “Rethinking Literacy in Rural England, 1550–1700” Past & Present No. 260 August 2023 (Open Access). Does this material really provide a window into the minds of the most humble people in Tudor and Stuart society, or were reading and writing skills the preserve of the more affluent, or at least the middling, classes of society? After all, in 1691 the puritan writer Richard Baxter had described his lower-class neighbours as ‘the rabble that cannot read’. Was this fair? Back in the 1970s the social historian David […]