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Response to Review of Web Databases for Late Medieval Social and Economic History: England’s Immigrants and the Overland Trade Project

The Overland Trade Project is happy to accept the positive response to our database. As Dr Colson remarked this is an ‘utterly unique’ source allowing ‘a window into the otherwise hidden world of internal trade in late medieval England’. The mass of data cried out for analysis through a database. Yet as he also noted, and as the authors of the accompanying book (1) can confirm, we need to be aware of the difficulties of the source. One of the problems faced by the authors was in handling sources that generate vital but, by their nature, messy statistics. Historians need to understand the raw materials that make up a database, and the accompanying book has been a vital part of the project. It and the available published editions should help understand the nature of the evidence.  

The reviewer comments on the need for preservation through the UK Data Archive. This is a timely reminder of something else that should be done. Looking forward, there is a clear need for the incorporation of further brokage books into the database. The existing database shows the presence of fluctuations in trading patterns in the period between books. We now need to fill in some of these intervening gaps, to explain the changes and to include the later 16th-century books, when Southampton had ceased to be an international port and performed a different and much more local role. There is still much to be done in developing the database, and exploiting the potential of its other capacities.