[MR] Book About English Coroners' Rolls
Garth Groff and Sally Sanford
mallardlodge1000 at gmail.com
Fri Jun 30 11:59:02 PDT 2023
This morning I read a very interesting little book, which was both
informative and entertaining (though in a somewhat morbid way): UNFORTUNATE
ENDS, ON MURDER AND MISADVENTURE IN MEDIEVAL ENGLAND by Soren Lily (London,
Unbound, 2022; ISBN 978180018-136-6).
The author translates reports from coroner's inquests into accidental
deaths, and also those not so accidental. He presents us with eleven cases,
and interpolates additional details from the sometimes sparse reports. He
also explains how coroner's juries worked, and how the value of property
involved in the cases was forfeited to the crown.
Along the way, he also explains a number of conundrums about life long ago,
such as how our ancestors determined time (which is carefully noted in most
of the reports). Before mechanical clocks were invented, time was announced
by church bells tolling the hours, such as prime, nones, vespers, etc.
However, the length of an "hour" was variable. Dawn to sunset was divided
into 12 hours which changed daily in length as the seasons progressed. Thus
6 or 7 modern hours of winter daylight would still be split into 12
"hours", with night divided just the opposite. This book is a goldmine of
interesting stuff like this.
In a couple of chapters, the author's language gets pretty earthy, and he
uses a few crude modern terms to describe what was originally written in
genteel formal Latin. I'm no prude, but I think this was somewhat
inappropriate. It does not negate the rest of a very interesting text, and
I still recommend this book for its very useful information.
I got my copy through Hamilton Book, a discount remainder house, for
. Hamilton charges $4 shipping per book for credit card orders, but just $4
total shipping for a mailed-in multi-book order if paid by check. Strange.
Mungo Napier, Laird of Mallard Lodge 🦆
Keeping Merry Rose relevant and in business for 16 years.
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