After a long time with the bulk of my library in boxes, I’ve been diving back into the study of English medieval landscapes with a vengeance, and particularly some of the books I hardly had time to flick through before they went into boxes.
Top of the pile is Tom Williamson’s Shaping Medieval Landscapes (Windgather Press, 2003), which opens with a very good overview of the major questions in the subject – why some parts of the English lowlands tend towards nucleated villages and open fields and others dispersed settlement and eonclosed patchwork fields, and when the respective systems developed – and some of the efforts to answer these questions from the late Victorian period to the present day. It’s a good setup for the rest of the book, which break down each section of the landscape in detail.
Carenza Lewis, Patrick Mitchell-Fox and Christopher Dyer’s Village, Hamlet and Field (Windgather Press, 2001) is something I’ve been dipping into without really absorbing. I haven’t really been giving it the attention it deserves, largely because I’ve been concentrating on Williamson’s book.
The Countryside of Medieval England, edited by Grenville Astill and Annie Grant (Blackwell, 1992) is an old friend. It’s one of the first books I bought when I started to get seriously interested in medieval landscapes, and I still find it a useful reference. As a collection of essays, it’s quite easy to dip into specific chapters.
I’m considering, once again, putting together an introductory essay for the main website. The main problem I have is that it’s such a huge field (no pun intended), with so many conflicting opinions among the experts, that it’s hard to get my own thoughts coherent enough to write anything worth reading. I stumbled across an abortive attempt I’d made some years ago, and realised exactly why I’d abandoned that effort – it had no real direction, because I really wasn’t confident in my knowledge at that time. And now, after so long with my books in boxes, and medieval England no longer waiting outside my front doorstep, I have to brush up before I seriously make another attempt.
And then there’s the whole business of tofts, crofts and village layouts…