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From Memory to Written Record: England 1066 - 1307
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From Memory to Written Record: England 1066 - 1307

4.09  ·  Rating Details ·  112 Ratings  ·  12 Reviews
The second edition of Michael Clanchy's widely-acclaimed study of the history of the written word in the Middle Ages is now, after a much lamented absence, republished in an entirely new and revised edition. The text of the original has been revised throughout to take account of the enormous amount of new research following publication of the first edition. The introductio ...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published March 10th 1993 by Wiley-Blackwell (first published May 1st 1979)
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This was a book that changed my thinking. It's not a beginners book, the reader could struggle without some background knowledge of the period from Domesday Book to Quo warranto. Luckily the author also has conveniently written England and its Rulers that could serve as a general introduction to the period.

From Memory to Written Record is an exploration of the shift in culture during that part of the middle ages in England from a reliance on memory to an increasing use of written records. It tak
This is a really nerdy book, in the best way possible. It examines the transition from a culture that was predominantly oral (with the modern idea of literacy being reserved to a small class of intellectual elite that viewed it as a predominantly theological pursuit) to a culture that was increasingly based on written documentation and practical literacy for a growing proportion of the populace. The gist of the argument suggests that as the English government came to increasingly utilize written ...more
Lauren Albert
Since I know I've read a lot of books on the history of the book, I was surprised to come to the realization of how little I've read about the move to written records. Note that I read the older edition and don't know where his conclusions have changed. I thought this was really interesting and easy to read with two provisos--read with a good dictionary since he often references archaic words without defining them and keep a timeline of monarchs near you since he uses reigns as time references. ...more
penny shima glanz
Apr 30, 2010 penny shima glanz rated it really liked it
Shelves: library-columbia
I read the first edition of this book as the second edition is out from the Uni library and I didn’t know if I really cared enough to wait for the second edition. Wow. Wow. Wow. I wish I could use better words to talk about it. It is fascinating, covering the rise of writing as historical record, the technology of writing (so so fascinating). I will be looking for the second edition as it is apparently almost a complete rewrite of the text and includes (according to Amazon) such fascinating topi ...more
Nov 01, 2015 Krys rated it liked it
Clanchy's book abounds with the sorts of explanations and challenges to contemporary assumptions about literacy in the middle ages that make for a fascinating read. The evidence of extant records have truly helped me rethink my conception of that era on Europe (specifically England, which is the focus of the book). And though the book is very dry and labyrinthine (certainly not a casual read), it is illuminative for anyone wishing to delve deeply into a specific historical period and unpack one ...more
A seminal work on mediaeval written documents in the context of the development of literacy in mediaeval England. This extremely influential work is foundational for the current understanding of the role of writing in mediaeval western Europe.
R. G. Nairam
Aug 04, 2016 R. G. Nairam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: medieval-history
I did it! The February-August length of time is mostly due to a lot of procrastinating where I let it sit in my "currently reading" making me feel guilty until I picked it up and actually started over in late July.

A fascinating book, if sometimes a bit dense and other times repetitive (not within a chapter, but one chapter may repeat the same ideas as another). I especially like the way it challenges the preconceptions of a society (ours) that thinks literacy is required for civilization.

Mar 24, 2007 Laura rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
About the transition from an oral to a written culture in England. It's beena while since I read it, but I remember telling Ben how awesome it was, so it must have been. I do remember that the literacy rates he gave for the non-nobility were suprisingly high. Given the lack of detail in this review, perhaps it is time for me to reread this book.
Sarah Fisher
Dec 18, 2009 Sarah Fisher rated it it was ok
Packed with facts. However, I found it extremely hard to get through with very dry writing. Sometimes relied to heavily on pure statistics based on survival of records.
Jul 02, 2010 Roger rated it it was amazing
Fascinating study of how oral traditions in literacy and law shifted toward faith in the power and authority of the written word.
May 27, 2007 Casey rated it liked it
An interesting chronicle of English society and the transition of information into written form from oral.
Paul Callister
Sep 16, 2007 Paul Callister rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: any legal scholar
The book is a wonder of scholarship illustrating the English transition from an oral society to a documented.
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