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Waterways and Canal-building in Medieval England

Winner of the Railway and Canal Historical Society Prize 2009
2009 Transport History Book of the Year Award
The first study of canals and waterways in medieval England
Essays from a wide range of specialists, from geographers and geomorphologists, to place-name scholars
A new perspective broadening our understanding of medieval economy, landscape, and settlement in England

Series: Medieval History and Archaeology

By: John Blair (Editor)

332 pages, 70 b/w illustrations

Oxford University Press

Paperback | Nov 2014 | #213372 | ISBN-13: 9780198723134
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £24.99 $30/€28 approx
Hardback | Oct 2007 | #213371 | ISBN-13: 9780199217151
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £86.99 $106/€97 approx

About this book

A book centring on late Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman canals may come as a surprise; it is generally assumed that no such things existed. Persuasive evidence has, however, been unearthed independently by several scholars, and has stimulated this first serious study of improved waterways in England between the eleventh and fourteenth centuries. England is naturally well-endowed with a network of navigable rivers, especially the easterly systems draining into the Thames, Wash, and Humber. The central middle ages saw innovative and extensive development of this network, including the digging of canals bypassing difficult stretches of rivers, or linking rivers to important production centres. The eleventh and twelfth centuries seem to have been the high point for this dynamic approach to water-transport: after 1200, the improvement of roads and bridges increasingly diverted resources away from the canals, many of which stagnated with the reassertion of natural drainage patterns.

This new perspective has an important bearing on the economy, landscape, settlement patterns, and inter-regional contacts of medieval England. In Waterways and Canal-building in Medieval England, economic historians, geographers, geomorphologists, archaeologists, and place-name scholars bring their various skills to bear on a neglected but important aspect of medieval engineering and economic growth.

"This book has much new information and many ideas (indluding agendas for future work) which should be explored in order for us to develop a more sophisticated appreciation of the medieval economy."
Early Medieval Europe 17(2)

"This is a fine book which achieves what it sets out to do."
Economic History Review

"[John Blair] and the contributors to this volume [...] should not be unduly modest about their achievement."
Society for Landscape Studies

"This book greatly assists our understanding of the extent of early inland navigation in England."
– Grahame Boyes, Railway and Canal Society

" [...] an excellent overview [...] "
Northern History

" [...] enormously useful [...] a book which should be warmly welcomed."
– Bob Silvester, The Society for Medieval Archaeology

"a volume full of insights which makes a stimulating introduction to an important subject."
– D. Harrison, English Historical Review


JOHN BLAIR: Introduction

Part I: Waterways, Geography and Economy
1: FIONA EDMONDS: Barrier or Unifying Feature? Defining the Nature of Early Medieval Water Transport in the North-West
2: DELLA HOOKE: Uses of Waterways in Anglo-Saxon England
3: ANN COLE: The Place-Name Evidence for Water Transport in Early Medieval England
4: MARK GARDINER: Hythes, Small Ports and Other Landing Places in Later Medieval England
5: JOHN LANGDON: The Efficiency of Inland Water Transport in Medieval England

Part II: Improved Waterways and Canals
6: ED RHODES: Identifying Human Modification of River Channels
7: JAMES BOND: Canal Construction in the Early Middle Ages: an Introductory Review
8: STEPHEN RIPPON: Waterways and Water Transport on Reclaimed Coastal Marshlands: the Somerset Levels and Beyond
9: CHARLES and NANCY HOLLINRAKE: The Water Roads of Somerset
10: CHARLES and NANCY HOLLINRAKE: Glastonbury's Anglo-Saxon Canal and Dunstan's Dyke
11: CHRISTOPHER K. CURRIE: Early Water Management on the Lower River Itchen in Hampshire
12: JOHN BLAIR: Transport and Canal-Building on the Upper Thames, 1000-1300

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Edited by John Blair, Lecturer in Modern History, Professor of Medieval History and Archaeology, Queen's College, Oxford

John Blair, Queen's College, Oxford
James Bond, independent scholar
Ann Cole, independent scholar
Christopher K. Currie, independent scholar
Fiona Edmonds, Clare College, Cambridge
Mark Gardiner, Queen's University Belfast
Charles Hollinrake, independent scholar
Nancy Hollinrake, independent scholar
Della Hooke, University of Birmingham
John Langdon, University of Alberta
Ed Rhodes, geographer
Stephen Rippon, University of Exeter

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