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15 - Identities

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

Miri Rubin
Affiliation:
Queen Mary, University of London
Rosemary Horrox
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
W. Mark Ormrod
Affiliation:
University of York
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Summary

Identity is as elusive as it is central to individual lives and collective experience. People in the past, just as today, think about their identity even when they are least aware of it. When making a new acquaintance, when entering a settlement different from one's own, when seeking a marriage partner or taking leave of the dying: on all these occasions and more, a person is called to judge and reflect on choices and their consequences, on connections and affinities, all refracted through the sense of self. And the self is multi-layered, ever-changing, hardly ever totally knowable. We change, yet we change slowly and imperceptibly in most cases. We change through self-fashioning and through the expectations of others. In what follows identity will be discussed as an evolving entity; the self will be explored as both private and communal.

The insights of historians of gender can be extended to our understanding of identity: that it is relational, always measured and experienced through affinities to other men and women. These others may be private individuals – parents, siblings, neighbours – or they can represent public entities such as the Church or the state or a monastic order. Yet each offers a set of claims and expectations, enfolded in a narrative and a mode of being in the world, which forges the individual in the most personal ways. Think, for example, of the heads of a family: mother and father.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2006

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  • Identities
  • Edited by Rosemary Horrox, University of Cambridge, W. Mark Ormrod, University of York
  • Book: A Social History of England, 1200–1500
  • Online publication: 05 June 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139167154.016
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  • Identities
  • Edited by Rosemary Horrox, University of Cambridge, W. Mark Ormrod, University of York
  • Book: A Social History of England, 1200–1500
  • Online publication: 05 June 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139167154.016
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Identities
  • Edited by Rosemary Horrox, University of Cambridge, W. Mark Ormrod, University of York
  • Book: A Social History of England, 1200–1500
  • Online publication: 05 June 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139167154.016
Available formats
×