Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Monday, 13 December 2021

Keeping medieval cities clean

By a fortuitous coincidence I came across a piece on History Extra about the ways in which cities such as London, York and Coventry sought to maintain cleanliness in their streets in the later Middle Ages. This uses some of the material from London which was cited in the criminological study of the city in the earlier fourteenth century to which I linked recently in Murder in early fourteenth century London

As this article on urban street cleansing shows disputes could turn violent, sometimes very violent and fatal but it challenges lazy modern assumptions about medieval dirt and mess. It shows that cities, and their citizens, did attempt to keep their streets clean and presentable in ways that are not unfamiliar to us today. I posted about this topic in 2016 in Keeping York clean in the sixteenth century

The short article, with many instances from civic life, can be read at Were medieval cities really filthy?

There is also an insightful article, and which includes a bibliography, and published in 2019, which discusses these and other related matters at Medieval Hygiene: Practices Of The Middle Ages

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