final draft of book review

final draft of book review - Thomas Ronan Medieval Cities...

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Thomas Ronan Medieval Cities 4/17/08 Medieval Towns John Schofield and Alan Vince’s work, Medieval Towns , is a comprehensive archaeological assessment of medieval British towns. The authors begin by stating their definition of archaeology: “To study the history of man through the material remains of his past activities against the setting of the natural environment in which he acted.” 1 Additionally, the authors assert that while archaeology is not without limitations, due to loss of material from natural and human causes, it is still an effective means of historical analysis of an area. Medieval Towns focuses on the area presently known as Britain from the early ninth through the mid 16th century. The archaeological assessment is derived from discoveries made over the past thirty years. A main thematic focus of the work is the effect of London on the development of the rest of Britain. 2 Each chapter of the book examines a different aspect of a medieval town’s features, namely, topographical factors in the growth of towns; houses; properties and streets; crafts and industries; trade and commerce; religion in towns; and the environment of medieval towns. This method of systematically breaking down each feature of a town and describing it in detail is effective at detailing the different aspects of medieval life, but flaws in presentation of contextual information and analytical focus compound to reduce the clarity and impact of the work. This lack of historical background leaves the reader confused and at times completely lost as to the meaning and significance of the presented archaeological data. This absence of historical 1 Schofield, Vince. Medieval Towns. Pg. 3 2 Schofield, Vince. Medieval Towns. Pg. 1
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background is compounded by the focus on generally accepted and understood archaeological data and a lack of emphasis on critical analysis of new archaeological findings, which leaves the reader wanting more information. In reference to Schofield and Vince's definition of archeology, what use is it without an effective understanding of the historical context of any archeological find, be it an entire building or the remnants of pottery? Medieval Towns claims, “The physical remains of the past, the tangible results of man’s activity, are as important a source of history as written records.” 3 Even though this book is supposed to be “an archaeological journey” 4 , many important events in history, such as the dichotomy of cities due to new Christian settlements, can not be
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This note was uploaded on 04/29/2008 for the course EPS 270.180 taught by Professor Olsen during the Spring '08 term at Johns Hopkins.

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final draft of book review - Thomas Ronan Medieval Cities...

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