Memory, Landscape, and a Coastal Community in 13th- and 14th-Century England

I am really looking forward to giving a short paper under the above title at the International Medieval Congress at Leeds soon in a very interesting session sponsored by the Landscape Research Group in Oxford. IMC Programme Session The Medieval Landscape. 

I have been very preoccupied in recent months with writing my book on medieval village children, and am still not quite finished with it. So it requires somewhat of a shift to think once again about my other project, a microhistory of the coastal fishing village of Heacham in Norfolk. The sources for the coastal manor of Heacham are unusually plentiful, if not always in the best of condition. Memory plays a crucial role in the rolls especially in the 13th century, when communal memory is used very actively to construct manorial court precendent to inform seigniorial policies regarding the manor. Memory was thus a communal tool to resist lordship, shape manorial custom and negotiate boundaries, physical, moral, economic and hierarchical boundaries. Whether memories are ‘true’ or not is really not of importance, it is the communal weight behind them that matters, the collectivity of an intellectual construct if you will, which establishes parameters within which community and lordship operates. On another level memory also operates in purely physical spheres, trees, fields, hills, mills, bushes, all become markers of identity.  The people who inhabit the coastline falling within the jurisdictional boundaries of the manor similarly embody a link between communal, collective memory, landscape and neighbourhood identity, forged through families holding particular tenements for generations, or living in neighbourhoods associated with particular crafts or the fishing industry. In places the land and the family identity intertwine, land being called ‘the lands of …’ followed by a family name even long after the family itself does not hold the land anymore. Memory and land thereby forges and re-enforces local identities and familial associations. So apart from the fun of seeing friends and colleagues again at Leeds, I really look forward to turning my attention and focus back to medieval Heacham.



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