English Life in the Middle Ages

By L. F. Salzman | Go to book overview

III
TOWN LIFE

THE difference between a town and a village is one of quantity rather than quality, of size rather than nature. There are places which are obviously towns and others which are equally clearly villages, but we most of us know places whose inhabitants proudly refer to them as towns and are much offended when strangers incautiously refer to them as villages. In the Middle Ages it is still more difficult to draw any distinct line between the two, as even the larger towns had many of the qualities of villages. Possibly at the present time the possession of sufficient shops to satisfy the ordinary needs of civilized life might be held to be the test of a town, and in the same way the existence in a medieval community of a certain number of tradesmen, persons who did not live solely by agriculture, was the mark of a town. We have seen that villages grew up by the settlement of a number of households, often connected by family ties, living together for purposes of protection; and this same motive of mutual protection was probably the first cause of towns. In very early days the wandering British tribes had fortified positions, usually on hill-tops, surrounded by deep ditches and high banks, within which the scattered communities of the tribe could retire during periods of war or invasion. As life became more settled and villages grew up, the fortified village of the chief of the tribe, the centre of such government as existed, tended to become larger and more important than the others and probably still retained its character of a place of refuge in time of danger. The Romans encouraged the growth of these tribal towns and built others. Being a methodical race, they laid out their towns on neat mathematical lines; one main street ran north and south, another east and west, cutting the first at the centre of the town; other streets ran parallel to these two, dividing the whole town up into a series of rectangular blocks, one block--at the crossing of the main streets--being given up to the market-place, magis-

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English Life in the Middle Ages
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 7
  • To Nancy 9
  • Preface 11
  • Contents 13
  • List of Illustrations 15
  • I - Introduction 21
  • II - Country Life 36
  • III - Town Life 63
  • IV - Home Life 88
  • V - The Church and Religion 109
  • VI - Education 134
  • VII - Literature 150
  • VIII - Art and Science 171
  • IX - Warfare 186
  • X - Law and Order 215
  • XI - Industry, Trade, and Finance 233
  • XII - Women 249
  • XIII - Wayfaring 266
  • Bibliography 283
  • Index 285
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