The broadest aim of Fragments is to generate new, integrated ways of thinking about the premodern past. More...


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Volume 5 (2016) Current Issue

The Perils of Periodization: Roman Ceramics in Britain after 400 CE

Keith J. Fitzpatrick-Matthews and Robin Fleming

The post-Roman Britons of the fifth century are a good example of people invisible to archaeologists and historians, who have not recognized a distinctive material culture for them. We propose that this material does indeed exist, but has been wrongly characterized as ‘Late Roman’ or, worse, “Anglo-Saxon.” This pottery copied late-Roman forms, often poorly or in miniature, and these pots became increasingly odd over time; local production took over, often by poorly trained potters. Occasionally, potters made pots of “Anglo-Saxon” form using techniques inherited from Romano-British traditions. It is the effect of labeling the material “Anglo-Saxon” that has rendered it, its makers, and its users invisible.

The Cemeteries of Roman Baldock

Keith J. Fitzpatrick-Matthews

An Honest Bed: The Scene of Life and Death in Late Medieval England

Katherine L. French, Kathryn A. Smith, and Sarah Stanbury

Our article explores the bed as an object that projects notions of status, aspiration, decorum, and morality. We are interested in the economic and symbolic values that accrue to the bed, bedding, and the bedroom in late medieval England, as described in wills and household accounts, and as evoked in literary and artistic imagery. We situate our analysis in relation to literal and represented household beds, those associated with birth and inheritance and also those portrayed in images of death. “Childbed” and “deathbed” are terms that frame the human lifecycle. They also invoke the most important item of furniture in the premodern household.

Of Piers, Polltaxes and Parliament: Articulating Status and Occupation in Late Medieval England

L. R. Poos and Martha D. Rust

This paper examines the articulation and vocabulary of a newly complex social order demarcated by occupation and status in England during the later fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, comparing Langland’s Piers Plowman with Parliamentary enactment of (and documentation resulting from) the later fourteenth century polltaxes and the Statute of Additions (1413). The idyllic vista of an agrarian “fair feeld ful of folk” at the opening of Piers Plowman evokes the “three estates” vision of social structure, which Langland quickly renders outmoded by populating the “feeld” with representatives of numerous artisan and commercial occupations (reflected in the manuscripts of Piers, which frequently highlight occupational terms in red ink). The polltaxes (by expanding the taxable base of government’s financial support, from land and movable wealth to occupation and status) and the Statute (by requiring new information in legal records about status) were responses to the same reality.