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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: March 2021

3 - Economic Topography



Chapter 2 demonstrated that variation in rent levels between parishes was one characteristic of the Cambridge property market. This chapter examines the economic topography of late 13th-century Cambridge and considers the features that may have contributed to that variation. It analyses both the occupational structure and the parochial structure of the town, and relates the two. It presents a statistical profile of occupations and parishes, based on the information in the Hundred Rolls. It examines locational specialization in both trades and professions. It distinguishes between parishes that specialized mainly in trade and those that were mainly professional. It compares the Cambridge evidence with that for other towns and identifies similarities and differences.

The second part of the chapter provides profiles of every parish in the town (Figure 3.1). This is the first comprehensive set of parish profiles ever published for the town because it is the only one that is based on a complete set of the Cambridge Hundred Rolls. In particular, it conveys important new information about the parishes to the south and east of the town. The evidence on parishes revealed in the Hundred Rolls is compared with the relative wealth of the town's parishes as revealed in the valuations of the income of the English Church produced during the 13th century.

Overall, the chapter affords insights into occupational diversity and geographical clustering of occupations, and the extent to which particular parishes specialized in particular trades and professions. It considers some of the factors that may explain the specific patterns of specialization found in Cambridge.

The diversity of occupations

The Commercial Revolution of the 13th century generated a remarkable increase in the variety of occupations within the English economy, which led to successful specialization for some and to increased casualization of work for others. Medieval towns with the greatest range of skills and specialities in this period were those where opportunities coexisted for serving large households, supplying the surrounding region and servicing overseas trade. In the case of Cambridge, Barnwell Priory and the nascent university generated demand; the town was a natural market centre for its surrounding region and the riverside trade with its coastal links provided opportunities for overseas trade.

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