Medieval England: A Social History and Archaeology from the Conquest to 1600 A.D

By Colin Platt | Go to book overview
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Preface and Acknowledgments

A book of this kind can lend itself to many different treatments, two of which, certainly, I considered. It might have been more immediately useful to some, that is, if I had kept to my original intention of arranging the material thematically, so that the castle and the manor-house, the parish church, monastery and village could each be considered in its turn. Yet to have done so would have been to risk concealing what I consider myself to be the most important guiding principle of medieval archaeology as we now know it, being its essential interrelationship with history. In effect, my purpose throughout this book has been to set one sort of evidence alongside another, so that the two, far from standing out in aggressive contrast, are at all times mutually complementary. To this end, I have found myself favouring the chronological approach, and this is how the book has developed. For those who might have wished it another way, the consolation may lie, as I have found it myself, in the unveiling of unexpected connections.

Medieval archaeology is a young discipline, very much younger than history, and one of the troubles of working within it is that many of its conclusions are still tentative. I have had myself, far too often, to work from exiguous data, available only in interim notes and sometimes the merest jottings from occasional conversations and lectures. I am grateful, of course, for the material I have gathered in this way, and am much obliged to its originators for permission to use it in my book. However, I cannot fail to have missed a good deal that has neither been written nor spoken about in public at all, nor have I always been able to determine whether the first thoughts of the excavators on important and original sites, some of them vital to my argument, are also their final conclusions. Where I have used such unconfirmed conclusions, I have done so only if, on other evidence, they have seemed to me not to have been implausible. I cannot see how I could have done otherwise.

Another disadvantage that will surely occur to those familiar with the present archaeological scene in Britain is that the pace of work has so vastly increased in recent years that whatever is available in print at this time may quickly be


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