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York, the Making of a City, 1068-1350

Posted on 11 December 2013

Sarah Rees Jones' new publication is first book-length study of York between 1068 and 1350

York was one of the most important cities in medieval England. This new study from Sarah Rees Jones traces the development of the city from the Norman Conquest to the Black Death. The twelfth and thirteenth centuries are a neglected period in the history of English towns, and this study argues that the period was absolutely fundamental to the development of urban society and that up to now we have misunderstood the reasons for the development of York and its significance within our history because of that neglect.

The book argues that the first Norman kings attempted to turn the city into a true northern capital of their new kingdom and had a much more significant impact on the development of the city than has previously been realised. Nevertheless the influence of York Minster, within whose shadow the town had originally developed, remained strong and was instrumental in the emergence of a strong and literate civic communal government in the later twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Many of the earlier Norman initiatives withered as the citizens developed their own institutions of government and social welfare.

The primary sources used are records of property ownership and administration, especially charters, and combines these with archaeological evidence from the last thirty years. Much of the emphasis of the book is therefore on the topographical development of the city and the changing social and economic structures associated with property ownership and occupation.

Sarah Rees Jones is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of History and is based in the interdisciplinary postgraduate Centre for Medieval Studies.