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A Country Merchant, 1495-1520: Trading and Farming at the End of the Middle Ages [Hardcover]

Christopher Dyer

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Book Description

17 May 2012
Around 1500 England's society and economy had reached a turning point. After a long period of slow change and even stagnation, an age of innovation and initiative was in motion, with enclosure, voyages of discovery, and new technologies. It was an age of fierce controversy, in which the government was fearful of beggars and wary of rebellions. The 'commonwealth' writers such as Thomas More were sharply critical of the greed of profit hungry landlords who dispossessed the poor. This book is about a wool merchant and large scale farmer who epitomises in many ways the spirit of the period. John Heritage kept an account book, from which we can reconstruct a whole society in the vicinity of Moreton in Marsh, Gloucestershire. He took part in the removal of a village which stood in the way of agricultural 'improvement', ran a large scale sheep farm, and as a 'woolman' spent much time travelling around the countryside meeting with gentry, farmers, and peasants in order to buy their wool. He sold the wool he produced himself, and the fleeces he gathered, to London merchants who exported wool through Calais to the textile towns of Flanders. The wool growers named in the book can be studied in their native villages, and their lives can be reconstructed in the round, interacting in their communities, adapting their farming to new circumstances, and arranging the building of their local churches.

A Country Merchant has some of the characteristics of a biography, is part family history and part local history, with some landscape history. Dyer explores themes in economic and social history without neglecting the religious and cultural background. His central concern is to demonstrate the importance of the peasants' contribution to a changing economy.

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Christopher Dyers most recent book shows his characteristic impeccable scholarship and ability to illuminate the lives of otherwise obscure people. ... I am a great fan of Dyers work and can wholeheartedly recommend this book to other readers. (Kathleen Troup, Parergon)

Essential reading for students taking abroad range of modules and a must for anyone who teaches and researches the history of masculinities, gender, class and idnetities. (Johanne Bailey, Journal of Continuity and Change Vol. 28.1)

More than most historians, Dyer is able to conjure up a sense of what it must have felt like to be alive in the times about which he writes. His account of John Heritage and his world is both fascinating and valuable. (Chris Given-Wilson, BBC History Magazine)

is an invaluable contribution to historians understanding of the practicalities and realities of late medieval commerce, and allows us to see how the more positive account of the economy of this period can be witnessed in terms of lived reality. (Dr Justin Colson, Review in History)

an intruiging study of a commercial and agrarian society (Paul Freedman, Times Literary Supplement)

This excellent book combines local and family history with landscape studies to provide a detailed and convincing account ... an outstanding and readable book that brings general concepts to life with its concentration on the reality of human experience in a distinctive Midlands landscape. (David Hey, Landscape History)

a significant work of scholarship about a Gloucestershire wool merchant and large-scale farmer. ... Highly informative and a pleasure to read, with much more than local importance. (Northern History)

This is a dense, detailed and highly scholarly book which can be read with pleasure, as well as for enlightenment. (Paul Stamper, Journal of Medieval Archaeology)

Throughout his long and distinguished career, Dyer's work has been characterized by clear presentation of arguments and accessible prose, and this book is no exception. The publisher has sought to broaden the book's appeal to a general readership by including a large number of photographs of places discussed in the text and providing other useful ancillary material. (James Masschaele, Agricultural History Review)

About the Author

Christopher Dyer has held posts at the Universities of Edinburgh, Birmingham, and Leicester. He has written five books, and has been joint author or editor of six others. He has published numerous articles and essays in many journals and edited volumes. His central interest is in the economic and social history of medieval England, and in pursuit of a broader understanding of the period has worked on landscape history and archaeology. He is CBE, a Fellow of the British Academy, and has been President of the Society for Medieval Archaeology, The British Agricultural History Society, the Medieval Settlement Research Group, the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, and the Worcestershire Historical Society. He has been editor of the journals Midland History and the Economic History Review.

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