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Britain in the Middle Ages: An…
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Britain in the Middle Ages: An Archaeological History (edição: 2007)

de Francis Pryor (Autor)

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1443150,766 (3.86)3
As in 'Britain B.C.' and 'Britain A.D.' (also accompanied by Channel 4 series), eminent archaeologist Francis Pryor challenges familiar historical views of the Middle Ages by examining fresh evidence from the ground. The term 'Middle Ages' suggests a time between two other ages: a period when nothing much happened. In his radical reassessment, Francis Pryor shows that this is very far from the truth, and that the Middle Ages (approximately 800-1550) were actually the time when the modern world was born. This was when Britain moved from Late Antiquity into a world we can recognize as more or less familiar: roads and parishes became fixed; familiar institutions, such as the church and local government, came into being; industry became truly industrial; and international trade was now a routine process. Archaeology shows that the Middle Ages were far from static. Based on everyday, often humdrum evidence, it demonstrates that the later agricultural and industrial revolutions were not that unexpected, given what we now know of the later medieval period. Similarly, the explosion of British maritime power in the late 1700s had roots in the 15th century. The book stresses continuous development at the expense of 'revolution', though the Black Death (1348), which killed a third of the population, did have a profound effect in loosening the grip of the feudal system. Labour became scarce and workers gained power; land became more available and the move to modern farming began. The Middle Ages can now be seen in a fresh light as an era of great inventiveness, as the author examines such topics as 'upward mobility'; the power of the Church; the role of the Guilds as precursors of trade unions; the transport infrastructure of roads, bridges and shipbuilders; and the increase in iron production.… (mais)
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Título:Britain in the Middle Ages: An Archaeological History
Autores:Francis Pryor (Autor)
Informação:Harper Perennial (2007), 320 pages
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Britain in the Middle Ages: An Archaeological History de Francis Pryor

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    Terry Jones' Medieval Lives de Terry Jones (avelynwex)
    avelynwex: Terry Jones has interesting insight into societal roles in Medieval England. The book is a nice light read but informative (especially the illustrated edition.) The DVD version is also an interesting watch, with just a hint of Monty Python flair too.
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It took me a while to figure out what was going on in Francis Pryor’s Britain in the Middle Ages. The book seemed disorganized, wandering over topics like medieval town layouts, the provenance of Byzantine coins found by metal detectorists, and the details of notched tally sticks. Eventually, however, I did get Pryor’s point (not his fault; he made it clear what he was about in the Introduction); this, as the subtitle says, is an archaeological history. It deals with what you can deduce from physical objects, not from documents. Pryor runs a farm when he’s not archaeologicizing, and he mentions a personal anecdote to make his point. It’s now illegal for a farmer to bury dead livestock in England; instead you call a local official who makes arrangements for the deceased cow. Unfortunately, the local officials are overwhelmed and it sometimes takes weeks for them to get around to Elsie’s funeral. Thus Pryor found himself taking things in his own hands and illegally burying dead cattle. The point of this little story is that, to some future historian, documentary research would turn up the law, which might then make it into a history of English agriculture in the 20th century as a footnote. However, an archaeological dig on Pryor’s farm would uncover livestock skeletons datable to the period when the law was in effect. Thus, when confronted with a code of livestock regulations on one hand and a cow skeleton with eartags on the other, trust the physical evidence.


Therefore, unless you are already familiar with medieval English history, the book would seem disorganized and a difficult read – there’s no conventional historical chronology with kings and battles and such. Instead, there’s selections from the archaeological evidence that throw light on history. In the examples I mentioned, Pryor notes it’s been assumed that Roman era towns were set out with regular street grids, while in Dark Ages towns the streets were haphazard. However, the Anglo-Saxons weren’t stupid, and when it was advantageous to lay out a rectilinear street plan, they did so – leading to misdating to the Roman period.


England’s taken an amazingly reasonable attitude to metal detectors – as long as metal detectionists take their finds to a local archaeological officer and report the find location, they get to keep them (with a State option to buy at the appraised value). This has lead to a plethora of sites with Dark Ages coins – from all over Europe – turning up without much evidence of anything else. The assumption is that these were open air trading sites, sometimes corroborated by nearby town names ending in “wic”, the Old English word for “market”.


The tally sticks provided one of those “Aha” moments. Traders would use a notched stick to indicate possession of so many bales of wool or bundles of hides or whatever they wear dealing in, to be delivered at a later date. The two parties would split the stick, each retaining one half as security – it being pretty hard to forge a broken stick. The larger part of the stick was called the “stock”, and the smaller part the “foil”. If you got tired of waiting for you hides or wool or whatever to show up, you could sell your half to somebody else – leading to a “stock exchange”.


The book’s major flaw is Pryor’s incessant name dropping. Every few pages some “famous” or “outstanding” archaeologist gets named; couldn’t this have been done in the Acknowledgements? I suppose because Pryor’s own specialty is prehistoric archaeology, he had to have a lot of help putting the book together and is rightly grateful, but it gets tedious after a while.


The archaeological history theme made me give some though to our own times. Suppose, somehow, all documentary history of the 20th century was lost; could an archaeologist 1000 years hence figure out that there had been (for example) a Second World War? Probably in Europe, North Africa, and the Pacific, but would you be able to deduce that the United States was involved? Or that there even was such an entity as the United States? Time will, I suppose, tell.
( )
  setnahkt | Dec 5, 2017 |
For those of us who love exploring the dirty details of archaeological evidence from the comfort of our easy chairs, this will be a book for you. Early into this book it is quite apparent that the author is an accomplished archaeologist and very much in-tune with the small but significant details that can be unravelled from a good dig. Overall, I think I learned as much about the mechanics and aims of a modern dig as I did about the era and the island. Pryor is clearly trying to paint a different picture of household British life in the “dark ages” than that which modern media generally portrays, and he succeeds.

This book studies 900 years of English history, covering some major sub-topics including: the difference between “wet” and “dry” digs, construction and carpentry techniques, the evolution of population dispersal in both rural and urban settings, the effects of the plague on social and industrial levels, farming techniques, and many others.

I found it to be a slow, weedy read in the first half or so of the book—yet intrigued enough to continue. I was easily distracted by the author’s direct narrations to the reader; often including tirades and criticisms of different archaeological approaches. However, I can say the book did pick up momentum quite nicely throughout the middle and near the end of the book as I became accustomed to Pryor’s authorial idiosyncrasies.

Despite these few shortcomings, I was delighted by the numerous “aha!!!” moments I had throughout, where Pryor’s conclusions were very enlightening. This is one of those reference books where I found myself with pencil in hand on many occasions underlining (gasp!) some really neat tidbits of info that would surface as the cream of the discussion. It’s now fully dog-eared as well.

All in all, it was a thoroughly straight-forward non-fiction, with good insight despite the sometimes serpentine analysis provided by the author. It’s not what I would consider a light read, or an “overview” oriented reference. But if you’re in the mood for a good saturation of details on some very specific topic areas, I do recommend giving this one a look over. (HarperCollins, 2007)

Browse-able version here: http://browseinside.harpercollins.ca/index.aspx?isbn13=9780007203628

Review by Lady Avelyn Wexcombe (SCA)

PS - Pryor can be spotted as one of the specialists on the BBC show "Time Team". Kind of neat... ( )
1 vote avelynwex | Jul 14, 2011 |
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This book is dedicated to the memory of DR CHRIS SALISBURY friend, doctor and archaeologist
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I found the archaeological exploration involved in the writing of my previous book, Britain A D, so fascinating that I decided I had to carry the story forward in time.
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Good archaeology is all about having to make uncomfortable choices.
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As in 'Britain B.C.' and 'Britain A.D.' (also accompanied by Channel 4 series), eminent archaeologist Francis Pryor challenges familiar historical views of the Middle Ages by examining fresh evidence from the ground. The term 'Middle Ages' suggests a time between two other ages: a period when nothing much happened. In his radical reassessment, Francis Pryor shows that this is very far from the truth, and that the Middle Ages (approximately 800-1550) were actually the time when the modern world was born. This was when Britain moved from Late Antiquity into a world we can recognize as more or less familiar: roads and parishes became fixed; familiar institutions, such as the church and local government, came into being; industry became truly industrial; and international trade was now a routine process. Archaeology shows that the Middle Ages were far from static. Based on everyday, often humdrum evidence, it demonstrates that the later agricultural and industrial revolutions were not that unexpected, given what we now know of the later medieval period. Similarly, the explosion of British maritime power in the late 1700s had roots in the 15th century. The book stresses continuous development at the expense of 'revolution', though the Black Death (1348), which killed a third of the population, did have a profound effect in loosening the grip of the feudal system. Labour became scarce and workers gained power; land became more available and the move to modern farming began. The Middle Ages can now be seen in a fresh light as an era of great inventiveness, as the author examines such topics as 'upward mobility'; the power of the Church; the role of the Guilds as precursors of trade unions; the transport infrastructure of roads, bridges and shipbuilders; and the increase in iron production.

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