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Transport in medieval England

Langdon, John and Claridge, Jordan ORCID: 0000-0002-8064-7394 (2011) Transport in medieval England. History Compass, 9 (11). pp. 864-875. ISSN 1478-0542

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Identification Number: 10.1111/j.1478-0542.2011.00804.x


Abstract Medieval transport might strike the uninitiated as inherently primitive, but developments in the technology and infrastructure of getting goods and people around in the Middle Ages were constantly occurring. In the case of medieval England, they contributed critically to the commercialization in the country, particularly for the period from 1066 to around 1300. Nor was the story one of gradual and inexorable progress, but one of many twists and turns, as transport adjusted to major shifts in the social and economic environment, particularly when the Black Death struck in the middle of the 14th century. In broad terms, it appears that inland water transport developed quite significantly in the early medieval period (up to, say, 1300), but that land transport gradually improved to the extent that river navigation, while remaining important in certain parts of the country, especially the east, began an overall decline (although coastal shipping continued to be important). A key factor in this was the building of bridges, which were critical in integrating the road network. However, a particularly salient and as yet unexplained paradox was that, as commercial traffic increased, the legal and social framework for the upkeep of road and river transport networks seemingly relaxed, so that enforcement of the maintenance provisions of bridges and roads became more uncertain. Despite this, the excitement for travel continued to grow, for religious and other reasons, and began to be reflected in a growing popularity of maps, from displaying local institutions and communities to depictions of the world and cosmos (the so-called mappae mundi). Thus, over recent decades, medieval English transport has become situated more securely within larger social, economic and cultural visions of the period, as documentary, archaeological and iconographic studies with strong transport orientations have become more common and inventive.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd
Divisions: Economic History
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HE Transportation and Communications
Date Deposited: 08 Aug 2019 10:21
Last Modified: 12 Feb 2024 19:03

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