Bridges, Law and Power in Medieval England, 700-1400 by Alan Cooper

By Alan Cooper

From the time of Alfred the good till past the tip of the center a while, bridges have been very important to the rulers and other people of britain, yet they have been dear and hard to take care of. Who then was once chargeable for their maintenance? the reply to this query adjustments over the centuries, and how within which it alterations unearths a lot approximately legislations and gear in medieval England. the improvement of legislation in regards to the upkeep of bridges didn't stick with a simple line: criminal principles constructed through the Anglo-Saxons, which had made the 1st age of bridge development attainable, have been rejected via the Normans, and royal attorneys of the 13th and fourteenth centuries needed to locate new suggestions to the matter. The destiny of recognized bridges, in particular London Bridge, exhibits the best way the non secular, old and entrepreneurial mind's eye used to be pressed into carrier to discover options; the destiny of humbler bridges exhibits the urgency with which this challenge was once debated around the state. via focusing on this point of sensible governance and tracing it in the course of the process the center a long time, a lot is proven concerning the obstacles of royal strength and the creativity of the medieval criminal brain. ALAN COOPER is Assistant Professor of historical past at Colgate collage.

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The chronicler with good 18 Bridge-Work, but No Bridges below Oxford must once have been as wet as the Fens. The transformation of the valley into cultivated land would have changed the shape and force of the river: the claiming of fields by the Abbey of Abingdon would, for instance, have had a direct effect on the ancient ford at Wallingford, just down stream. Thus, whereas Wallingford had been the place where the pre-historic Icknield Way crossed the Thames and was the lowest ford that William the Conqueror could find after being unable to cross the Thames at London, it required a bridge by the twelfth century.

58 As William Cronon describes in his account of the effect of European settlement on the New England environment, even the smallest changes can have a cumulative effect. For a whole variety of mutually reinforcing reasons, ‘spring runoff in deforested regions began and peaked at an earlier date; moreover, smaller rainstorms at other times of year produced greater amounts of runoff. ’59 The long-term result could be the 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 not the end of it. His conclusion that ‘the Anglo-Saxons in 600 years probably increased the area of farmland, managed the woodland more intensively, and made many minor alterations.

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, ed. Thorpe, I, 364. For these and further examples, see H. C. Darby, The Medieval Fenland (Cambridge, 1940), pp. 43– 52. Evidence of this kind of activity is best preserved by monastic establishments with their continuous institutional memory, and we may presume that similar activities were taking place on a small scale outside the monasteries. 65 Hoskins, Making of the English Landscape, rev. edn, p. 71. 66 Chronicon monasterii de Abingdon, ed. Joseph Stevenson [RS 2] (London, 1858), I, 2–3; Frank Stenton, The Early History of the Abbey of Abingdon (Reading, 1913), pp.

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