David Rollison has written a remarkable work of social and political history: vertiginously ambitious, A Commonwealth of the People showcases England’s constitutional and economic development from the 11th to the 17th century within world histories of nationalism, democratization, and globalization. ‘My subject’, he writes, ‘is the emergence of a “civilization”’ (p. 16).
In the wake of Douglass North’s theories on institutions and economic growth, the last two decades have seen various kinds of medieval and early modern institutions increasingly regarded as factors aiding in, rather than obstructing, the transformative processes that eventually led to modern industrial capitalism in the 19th century.
Professor Dyer’s A Country Merchant represents the development of several emerging themes in late medieval and early modern history: for one, the increasing recognition of the long 15th century, and especially the period roughly framed by the reign of Henry VII, as an important ‘Age of Transition’, most eloquently highlighted in his own book of that title.(1)
This collection of essays forms an excellent Festschrift for Professor John Hatcher, whose eclectic range of research is displayed by the volume’s division into three parts: the first explores the medieval demographic system; the second charts the changing relationship between lords and peasants; and the third highlights the fortunes of trade and industry after the Black Death.
Desan’s fascinating book approaches the only seemingly obvious act of ‘making money’ by examining what it actually means to ‘make money’. While Desan does acknowledge the physical act involved in this process, such as the striking of coins and the printing of bills, her primary focus is to study what gave money value and validated it as a reliable medium of egalitarian exchange.
Several large projects focusing upon the social history of the late medieval period have come to completion in the past few years, two of which have culminated in the publication of online resources as their main outputs.
I knew David Hey for 30 years, and it is with great sadness that I offer this review of his last and posthumous book. I recall well how I first met him. It was Easter 1985 and I was on my way to the British Agricultural History Society conference to give a paper. I hadn’t been to that conference before, nor had I ever given a paper to a conference (as opposed to a seminar).