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Medieval market morality - James Davis

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Medieval market morality - life, law and ethics in the English marketplace, 1200-1500
James Davis
Cambridge University Press
UK Publication Date

This important study examines the market trade of medieval England by providing a wide-ranging critique of the moral and legal imperatives that underpinned retail trade. James Davis shows how market-goers were influenced not only by practical and economic considerations of price, quality, supply and demand, but also by the moral and cultural environment within which such deals were conducted. This book draws on a broad range of cross-disciplinary evidence, from the literary works of William Langland and the sermons of medieval preachers, to state, civic and guild laws, Davis scrutinises everyday market behaviour through case studies of small and large towns, using the evidence of manor and borough courts. From these varied sources, Davis teases out the complex relationship between morality, law and practice and demonstrates that even the influence of contemporary Christian ideology was not necessarily incompatible with efficient and profitable everyday commerce.

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James Davis is Lecturer in Medieval History in the School of History and Anthropology at Queen's University Belfast.

'The task James Davis has set himself in this excellent book is to describe [the] regulations, morals, attitudes and prejudices [of the medieval market], and then to examine through case studies of individual markets precisely how they circumscribed the interaction of forces of supply and demand … What emerges from his exposition is a nuanced perspective on what people thought of markets … Davis has done us an important service by showing us another important way in which the long road to the modern economy can be traced back to a period earlier than most historians in the past would have thought likely.' Shami Ghosh, Reviews in History (

'An important new book that makes a major contribution to what is now a mature field … Davis successfully bridges the gap between cultural history and economic history, showing how values and ideals were intertwined with the economy and vice versa. By bringing these two fields of enquiry together, Davis advances our understanding of both fields and illustrates the benefits of working across established scholarly boundaries.' Journal of British Studies

'… [an] ambitious and learned book … This book will intrigue readers … a rich study which draws on an exceptionally broad range of primary sources …' Journal of Continuity and Change

Keyword Index
Markets - Great Britain - History.|Retail trade - Great Britain - History.|Cities and towns, Medieval - Great Britain.|Social history - Medieval, 500-1500.|Ethics - Great Britain - History.|England - Social life and customs - 1066-1485.
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