*A History of England in 100 Places*

This 2011 book by John Julius Norwich is both an excellent travel book and one of the very best ways of learning more about the history of England.  It is remarkably wide-ranging and properly treats economic and technological (and artistic) history on a par with political history.  Here is one short excerpt:

Of all the villages of Suffolk, Lavenham — pronounced with a short ‘a’ as in have — is the most enchanting.  It is a monument to the huge boom in the wool industry that occurred between about 1380 and 1550, and seems to have changed amazingly little since.  Here you will find not just individual timber-framed houses but whole streets of them, their overhanging jetties leaning and lurching like drunken platoons.  The Guildhall in the Market Place was built in the 1520s by one of the three guilds founded to regulate the wool trade.  Another, now known simply as the Wool Hall, dates from 1464; it stands on the corner of Lady Street and now forms part of the Swan Hotel.

…These churches [TC: they are sometimes called “Wool Churches”] demonstrate, better than anything else could, the fabulous wealth of their benefactors, the late medieval wool merchants, some of whom, by the end of the fourteenth century, had become rich enough to replace the Florentine financiers who underwrote the royal debts.

Definitely recommended, you can buy the book here.


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