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Late Medieval and Early Modern London: Community, Politics and Religion


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 6
  • Convenor: Mike Berlin
  • Assessment: coursework of 800 words (20%) and a 3200-word essay (80%)

Module description

In this module we focus on the city of London at the end of the Middle Ages, when national tensions were reflected in city politics, and trace the changing relationship between the city's government and inhabitants and the Yorkist and early Tudor state.

We will explore questions of community and social cohesion in the late medieval city. Citizens had loyalties to parish communities, to guilds or livery companies, and to the city as a whole; they also needed to define their relationship with other groups such as the poor, the dead and those in religious life.

Towards the end of the period studied, the political and religious Reformation being carried through at Westminster added to the tensions between crown and city; some fundamental aspects of social relationships were called into question, and the demands for changes in doctrine and practice may have jeopardised London's social cohesion and undermined the unity of its leaders.

During the module we will look at documentary sources that highlight the problems of identifying 'community' and 'interest' and relating avowed aims to actual actions. Four groups are particularly important:

  • the fifteenth-century 'London chronicles'
  • the records of the greater city companies
  • the records of the parish guild and fraternity associations through which most Londoners satisfied their social and religious needs
  • contemporary wills and testaments.