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Occupying Space in Medieval and Early Modern Britain and Ireland

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Gregory Hulsman and Caoimhe Whelan

This collection offers a range of interdisciplinary viewpoints on the occupation of space and theories of place in Britain and Ireland throughout the medieval and early modern periods. It considers space in both its physical and abstract sense, exploring literature, history, art, manuscript studies, religion, geography and archaeology. The buildings and ruins still occupying our urban and rural spaces bridge the gap between the medieval and the modern; manuscripts and objects hold keys to unlocking the secrets of the past. Focusing on the varied uses of space enriches our understanding of the material culture of the medieval and early modern period. The essays collected here offer astute observations on this theme and generate new insights into areas such as social interaction, cultural memory, sacred space and ideas of time and community.
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A Civic Relationship: The Guild Book of the Barbers and Surgeons of York as an Expression of Professional Status and City Authority (Richard Wragg)

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← 234 | 235 →RICHARD WRAGG

A Civic Relationship: The Guild Book of the Barbers and Surgeons of York as an Expression of Professional Status and City Authority

The history of a guild can be explored and understood in a variety of ways.1 The documentary evidence that it produced, where it remains extant, can reveal a great deal about its activities. A guild’s records can state the rules that were observed by its members and they can list the members themselves. We can use a guild’s records in other ways too, however. The physical nature of a manuscript can help us to understand the social world of the guild. By studying how a book was constructed, added to and used, it is possible to glimpse an abstract space in which individuals symbolically existed. A guild book offered a physical entity in which individuals’ names could be recorded and situated alongside legislative texts. In this way it might bind guild members together and present a focal point for ceremonial activities. Thus, a guild book’s original use might be understood as being that of an abstract space within a physical one. The importance of such a manuscript is in its dual functions as both a symbolic object and an authoritative record.

This chapter explores how the relationships, of guild members and of guilds and city authorities, might be investigated through a careful study of a single manuscript volume. By exploring the physical make-up of the manuscript British Library...

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