Middle-Class Writing in Late Medieval London
Whilst often portrayed as crude illiterates, Londoners in the early fourteenth century used writing in their daily lives with some sophistication. As the city's social and economic contexts changed in the late medieval period, so too did its population's writing habits. The middle classes took up writing as a way of preserving their civic rights and recording business debts, credit and real estate. This gradual acceptance of writing amongst the late medieval bourgeoisie led to the growth of 'private' writing, especially letter-writing, among women. Richardson explores how a powerful culture of writing was created in late medieval London, even though initially few inhabitants could actually write themselves. Whilst previous studies have tended to focus on middle-class literary reading patterns, this study examines writing skills separately both from reading skills and (especially) from literature. Richardson treats the supposed orality-vs-literacy controversy with suspicion, and shows the late medieval middle classes accepting a writing culture with reasonable enthusiasm.
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