Bridges, Law and Power in Medieval England, 700-1400

November 2006
4 line illustrations
198 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
ISBN: 9781843832751
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Boydell Press

Bridges, Law and Power in Medieval England, 700-1400

Alan Cooper

out of stock

A study of the financing, maintenance and construction of medieval bridges uncovers much about law and power at the time.
From the time of Alfred the Great until beyond the end of the Middle Ages, bridges were vital to the rulers and people of England, but they were expensive and difficult to maintain. Who then was responsible for their upkeep? The answer to this question changes over the centuries, and the way in which it changes reveals much about law and power in medieval England. The development of law concerning the maintenance of bridges did not follow a straightforward line: legal ideas developed by the Anglo-Saxons, which had made the first age of bridge building possible, were rejected by the Normans, and royal lawyers of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries had to find new solutions to the problem. The fate of famous bridges, especially London Bridge, shows the way in which the spiritual, historical and entrepreneurial imagination was pressed into service to find solutions; the fate of humbler bridges shows the urgency with which this problem was debated across the country. By concentrating on this aspect of practical governance and tracing it through the course of the Middle Ages, much is shown about the limitations of royal power and the creativity of the medieval legal mind.

ALAN COOPER is Assistant Professor of History at Colgate University.

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Keywords: Medieval History

Table of Contents

Bridge-work, but No Bridges: St Boniface and the Origins of the Common Burdens
Viking Wars, Public Peace: The Evolution of Bridge-work
`As Free as the King Could Grant': The End of Communal Bridge-work
Three Solutions
Appendix 1: The Gumley Charter of 749
Appendix 2: Grants of Pontage up to 1400


A satisfying and enlightening book.[...]The seemingly straightforward matter of bridges falling down involves a complex mix of changing concepts of royal power, feudal relationships, the evolving need for communication and transportation, and the selfish urges of human nature. LAW AND HISTORY REVIEW
Refreshingly original. NORTHERN HISTORY
We should gratefully salute his boldness in proposing a model for the development of bridgework from written sources and for encouraging us to explore its limitations. ENGLISH HISTORICAL REVIEW
An important contribution to our understanding of the development of the English laws relating to bridge building and maintenance from Anglo-Saxon times to the final decades of the fourteenth century. Provides some fascinating insights into the very different approaches to governance of the Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman kings. [...] An interesting and informative book. THE MEDIEVAL REVIEW
The issues raised are important in the context of the subject, and their larger significance is evident. The evidence is well marshalled and problems with it are fully discussed both in the text and in the extensive notes. The arguments are cogent and persuasive. The writing is clear, uncluttered, and occasionally funny. All in all, this was a joy to read. H-NET BOOK REVIEW