In this blog post, Professor Phillipp Schofield, President of the Economic History Society, writes about the Fourteenth Anglo-American Seminar on the Medieval Economy and Society, which was held at Dartington Hall, Devon, 30 June – 3 July 2023.
The latest gathering of the Anglo-American Seminar on the Medieval Economy and Society took place this summer at Dartington Hall, near Totnes, in Devon. Dartington Hall, fittingly for this seminar, is a particularly fine example of a medieval private hall. As ever, the seminar brought together British, European and North American historians of the medieval economy and society.
This was the fourteenth such meeting, and the seventh organised by Phillipp Schofield (Aberystwyth University). The first seven meetings, beginning in 1983, were organised by Professor Bruce Campbell (The Queen’s University, Belfast). The seminar is considered to be one of the most important points of contact for the discussion of relevant topics in the field of Medieval Economic and Social History, especially though not exclusively of Britain. Past meetings have also led to important publications, including conference proceedings and festschriften, such as Peasants and Lords in the Medieval English Economy but also submissions to leading journals, including, of course, the Economic History Review.
The format of the seminar remains largely unchanged from its earliest iterations and is based upon a commitment to seminar-length papers which allow for the presentation of a substantial research paper to an informed audience. As is usual, then, this year’s seminar included six main papers on a range of topics, all within the sub-discipline of social and economic history, and an afternoon symposium. This year’s seminar included leading figures in the social and economic history of Britain and of Western Europe, both established and relatively early career. The plenary speakers were Professor Adrian Bell, Dr Herbert Eiden and Dr Helen Killick, Professor Robert Braid, Dr Stephanie Brown, Dr Louisa Foroughi, Dr Rhiannon Sandy, Dr Grace Owen and Professor Jane Whittle. Respectively, they spoke on the people of 1381; long-term agricultural employment conditions in 14th-century Marseille; occupation and nationality in fourteenth-century coroners’ rolls; assessing yeoman identity in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries; apprenticeship in medieval England; and the agricultural wage workers of medieval England.
The Saturday afternoon symposium, on the topic of material culture in the medieval economy and society, was chaired by Professor Maryanne Kowaleski (Fordham University); the panellists included Dr Chris Briggs, Dr Harmony Dewez, Professor Christopher Dyer, Dr Laurel Wilson, Dr Elizabeth New, and the seminar convenor. Pre-circulated papers covered such topics as inventoried goods, wine, pottery, fashion and clothing, and sigillography.
A high point of the seminar is the Sunday afternoon trip, which always takes in a topic relevant to medieval economy. This year Dr David Stone led a visit to the deserted medieval settlement at Hound Tor on Dartmoor. David has worked for a number of years on Hound Tor and has helped produce a short film on the site for Dartmoor National Park: Medieval Houndtor: A Contested Landscape – YouTube.
Members of the Economic History Society were well-represented at the seminar and included the newly appointed Postan Fellow, Dr Grace Owen, this year’s Tawney lecturer, Professor Jane Whittle, and the secretary to the Society’s Women’s Committee, Dr Stephanie Brown. Thanks to the Society’s generosity through an Initiatives and Conferences grant, as well as anonymous donations, five PhD students were supported in their attendance at the seminar: Joshua Baylis, a first year PhD student at the University of East Anglia working on a comparative study of serfdom on the manors of Worcester Cathedral Priory as well as other lay and ecclesiastical manors in the West Midlands; Jerome Gasson, a University of Cambridge student in the second year of his PhD, researching the management of human resources on the Clare Estate, 1317-60; Andrew Hamilton, a third-year PhD student at the Queen’s University Belfast, investigating late medieval England and its ‘deviant’ peasantry’; Alex Hibberts, a second-year PhD student at Durham University, investigating changing relationships between the sea and three English communities, 1350-1600, and Holly Shipton, a second-year PhD student, also at the Queen’s University studying agrarian and manorial decision-making in thirteenth-century Leinster.
The attendance of research postgraduate students, as well as other early career researchers, was a welcome and important feature of the seminar. Almost a quarter of those attending fell into this category and were attending their first or second such meeting. It is very much hoped that they will feel encouraged to return and that other PGRs/ECRs will also attend the next meeting (to be held in 2026).
If you would like to be kept informed of the Seminar and its next meeting, please e-mail Phillipp Schofield on email@example.com
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