In many ways, I want to pick up the same theme as last week. This is because I discovered this week that among the elements within the new GCSE syllabus is the role of medieval or early modern historical sites; and that in Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3 a local study using primary sources is one of the criterion. In my opinion, such an emphasis on a student’s own locality in the past seems a good idea because just as microhistory can be used to understand the ‘bigger picture’, so a local history study, provided it is set within its regional and national context, can be both rewarding and enlightening.
This week has brought to the fore some different issues, albeit underpinning many of the lectures and discussions has again been the value to society of knowing and understanding the past, whether this is locally, regionally, nationally or internationally.
In many ways, both events I’m talking about this week can be seen as a legacy of the Medieval Canterbury Weekend. The first took place in St Martin’s Priory, the university’s very splendid building behind St Martin’s church that used to be a gentry-style residence.
This week has finally seen my return to preparing an article on businesswomen in fifteenth-century Canterbury that I haven’t really had a chance to work on since late last year. So it has been a case first of trying to pick-up where I left off and rethink myself back into the subject. However having worked out the rolling five-year average for all the ‘intrantes’: those below the freemen who were permitted to reside and trade in the city and compared it to the number of businesswomen similarly living and working independently, it is interesting to note that in the 1480s, in particular, these numbers do not follow the same pattern and the figures for women pick up in this decade whereas the total figures are the lowest for the whole century. I’m still working out what this may mean in terms of how these businesswomen were viewed by the authorities, not least because this broadly coincides with the incidence in the city’s courts of those classed as a ‘femme sole’ (a married woman who was legally seen as responsible for her commercial activities). Demonstrating once again the importance of the city’s medieval records, and these are still held at Canterbury Cathedral Archives and Library.
I thought I would start with an apology for not writing the blog last week but I was somewhat busy and time just disappeared as it is inclined to do. Anyway I’m now back having resurfaced after the Medieval Canterbury Weekend, but even so I’m going to keep it short because when you are thinking about whether the microphone is working properly or whether you have got out enough programmes you don’t really take in what the lecturer is saying, even if you are chairing the session. So if you were hoping for a summary of the various talks I’m afraid I’m going to disappoint you.