David Gary Shaw
I argue that piepowder people were the most dynamic social class in later medieval England. They were the elite travellers. There were traders among them, but commerce was only a small part of what they achieved and it was not what they shared: piepowder people were united by the purposeful travelling life. They created an intricate social and informational network that accelerated culture by sharing ideas and sharing news. The responsible ‘riding servants’ were one segment of the group. These were often educated men, who worked for their masters by riding out to supervise key tasks, conveying messages, material and commands. They rode too with questions and curiosity. Examining a confidential servant like William Worcestre allows us to see the shape of the information networks that stitched later medieval society and culture together. It also allows us to see as well the way social value and personal identity was shaped by life on the road.
David Gary Shaw is Professor of History at Wesleyan University. He is the author of The Creation of a Community (1993) and Necessary Conjunctions: The Social Self in Medieval England (2005). He co-edited The Return of Science: Evolution, History and Theory (2002) with Philip Pomper. His current research interests include the circulation of people and ideas in later medieval England and bishops and indulgences in the later medieval English church.
Friday, May 1, 2009, 7:30 PM
CUNY Graduate Center (365 Fifth Ave. @ 34th St.) Room 4406
Reception, with wine and cheese, follows.