IMC 2007: Sessions

Session 1315: The Orderly City: Privacy, Health, and Social Conformity

Wednesday 11 July 2007, 16.30-18.00

Moderator/Chair:James Davis, School of History & Anthropology, Queen's University Belfast
Paper 1315-aWindows in Dispute: The Concern for Privacy in Medieval London
(Language: English)
Janet S. Loengard, Department of History, Moravian College, Pennsylvania
Index terms: Daily Life, Law, Local History, Social History
Paper 1315-b'Clean Air Acting': Early Urban Environmental Protection
(Language: English)
Antje M. Schelberg, Independent Scholar, Göttingen
Index terms: Administration, Daily Life, Mentalities, Social History
Paper 1315-cCity of Order: The Construction of Conformity in Late Medieval London
(Language: English)
Evan May, Concordia University, Montreal
Index terms: Administration, Law

Paper a: Many medieval English cities protected light to houses by preventing new buildings from ‘stopping up’ windows. But 13th and 14th-century London valued physical privacy even more than light and its custom was primarily designed to prevent ‘overlooking’ from a neighbour’s window. Indeed, so long as it was on an old foundation, anyone could build to any height whether or not a neighbour’s dwelling was thereby darkened. The increased recognition of the need for light, resulting from London’s growth and the realities of urban life throughout the 15th and 16th centuries, necessarily eroded protection of privacy. London’s records document disputes – and settlements – over the centuries.
Paper b: According to the Germanist H. Wenzel, the medieval nobility employed pleasant fragrances to distinguish themselves from the rural population. This paper tries to argue that urban centres might rather be qualified as the aristocracy’s negative ‘point of reference’. It outlines how town gardens and municipal law in the form of sanitary regulations served as early measures to curb environmental pollution and to promote ‘public health’. The geographical focus will largely be on medieval England and Germany.
Paper c: This paper, based upon research for my PhD thesis, examines the ways in which the civic authorities in late medieval London (c. 1475-1525) sought to create conformity to standards of social and economic behaviour, in pursuit of an orderly, harmonious city. This was accomplished using a variety of both blunt and subtle tools or strategies that were meant to persuade Londoners to conform to expected standards of order, respect, and deference. These tools included alliances with the trade guilds, bonds and recognisances, and public ritual. This paper will also consider the ways in which archival documents themselves, in their content and composition, were part of this process of creating conformity.