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9 - Moving around

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

Wendy R. Childs
Affiliation:
University of Leeds
Rosemary Horrox
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
W. Mark Ormrod
Affiliation:
University of York
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Summary

The ease and amount of travel within medieval England is still often underestimated. Over a hundred years ago, Jusserand showed that medieval roads teemed with herbalists, jugglers, messengers, pedlars, wandering workmen, peasants, preachers, friars, pardoners, pilgrims and the like; and in 1936 Stenton described in detail the medieval road network and provided plenty of examples of journey speeds. Beyond those works, which were specifically on travel, the many studies showing England as a much governed country and one with vibrant trade, markets and towns also presuppose an effective transport system within which people and goods could travel regularly and in safety. It is not surprising that England's roads and rivers should be busy, since there are no great physical obstacles to movement. Although English terrain can sometimes be bleak, as in the Pennines or Dartmoor and Exmoor, the terrain itself did not make travel prohibitively difficult. Moving around in the middle ages was essentially no more difficult for most people than it remained until the improved roads and canals of the eighteenth century and the trains of the nineteenth. Even at the end of the nineteenth century the usual local form of transport for many people was by foot or horse and journey times would not be much shorter than in the middle ages.

The speed of travel in the middle ages depended on the size and purpose of the travelling group and the fitness of man and horse.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2006

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