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Tue, 25 Jul

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Church of St Mary the Virgin

The emergence of urban elites: York c.900-1200 AD

Dr Gareth Davies discusses developments in the urban societies of northwest Europe, catalyzed by a complex set of collaborative and competitive social relations between emerging urban elites, state governments, and established landed elites.

The emergence of urban elites: York c.900-1200 AD
The emergence of urban elites: York c.900-1200 AD

Time & Location

25 Jul 2023, 19:45 – 21:00

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Church Lane, Sedgeford, Hunstanton PE36 5NA, UK

About The Event

Developments in the urban societies of northwest Europe were catalyzed by a complex set of collaborative and competitive social relations between emerging urban elites, state governments, and established landed elites. By the mid-tenth century, textual sources show us that new mercantile ‘urban-patrician’ elites emerged in England from a combination of backgrounds as merchants and artisans. This challenged the status quo of pre-existing ecclesiastical institutions and secular aristocrats, who already had urban estates and residences, built churches and retained tithes over parishes.

But how visible are these elites in the archaeological record? Who were the actors and agents involved, and can we successfully attribute structural and material signatures to them? This paper will use the case-study of York, in northern England, highlighting archaeological excavations that can provide further insight into these debates. Notable excavations include the famous Coppergate Viking-age site where updated interpretation of the excavated sequence may allow for additional agency and identity to be attributed to mercantile elites. Another as yet unpublished site is the major excavation at Hungate, here continuity and change in patterns of land use, production and perhaps patronage, provides a useful comparator to Coppergate, allowing us to look at transforming social identities within urban elites between 900-1200.

This talk hopes to illustrate that, by 1200, the landed-elite view of the three orders of society - those who fight, those who pray and those who work – had been thoroughly dismantled, and collaboration between competing elite interests - state rulers, ecclesiastical elites, secular aristocracy and mercantile populations - was now essential for urban hubs such as York to successfully function. This can be narrated through the lens of York’s emergent medieval neighbourhoods; for every urban castle imposed, or Romanesque cathedral re-built, there was also a merchant-administered streetscape.

Entry to our Tuesday night lectures costs £3 on the door. Doors open at 7:15pm.

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