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Durham University

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Publication details for Professor Christian Liddy

Liddy, C.D. (2020). Family, lineage and dynasty in the late medieval city: Re-thinking the English evidence. Urban History 47(4): 648-670.

Author(s) from Durham


Ever since the publication in 1948 of Sylvia Thrupp's seminal book, The Merchant Class of Medieval London, successive generations of historians of English cities have advanced two central claims about the distinctiveness of the English urban landscape. First, ‘urban dynasties’ in late medieval England very rarely survived beyond two or three generations. Secondly, their weakness was a ‘peculiarly English’ phenomenon and a fundamental difference between English and continental towns. The article explores the historiographical significance of this thesis, the strength of which rests upon its explanatory role within a much wider narrative of English exceptionalism. It argues that the thesis has implications for the study of cities in continental Europe and, finally, it suggests that the English evidence might reveal a much more interesting picture of elite reproduction, when we think more critically and comparatively about how urban elites conceptualized ‘lineage’.