chapter  15
20 Pages

LANDSCAPES OF THE MIDDLE AGES: Rural settlement and manors


To most British archaeologists and historians, the Middle Ages (Middle, that is, between the Classical world and that of the Renaissance, when the term was rst used) traditionally begins in 1066 with the Norman Conquest of England. While many would admit that this overemphasizes the signicance of what was essentially a political coup, the later eleventh century fell anyway in a period of signicant changes sufcient by themselves to dene a new age. At various times over the previous century or so, parish churches had proliferated, fully integrated manorial estates had evolved, nucleated settlements and open eld systems had been established in most parts of lowland England and Romanesque (Norman) architecture had arrived. There is less agreement about when the Middle Ages ended, although historians generally take as their marker the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, which brought to a close the Wars of the Roses. Archaeologists, more attuned to the material world, tend to see the medieval world continuing until the 1540s, when the Dissolution of the monasteries not only brought down those key medieval institutions but also saw a redistribution of something like a third of the land of England, as monastic estates were sold off into lay (non-religious) ownership.