It seems that little has change in the last year of my life! For Day of Archaeology 2012, I posted about my PhD research on medieval manorial accounts. And here I am again, sitting in front of a microfilm reader in a windowless room of Queen’s University Belfast’s Library. While some of my colleagues are away surveying buildings in the sun, I’m stuck inside trying to decipher medieval handwriting.
Despite the less glamorous nature of my research, it is just as exciting and interesting. The manorial accounts record many aspects of the daily lives of people in the fourteenth century, letting us almost experience the medieval world. My research is specifically looking at the buildings of the manorial courtyards and farmsteads (or curiae). The accounts contain lots of details about the types of buildings and construction materials; with this information I can reconstruct the appearance of the buildings and the manorial complexes. Many of the manorial buildings would have been much larger than the average peasant could ever own and were often constructed from expensive materials that had to be brought to the manor. So far my research has shown that lords liked to spend more money on the buildings that they used (such as the hall, chamber and chapel) and to make these appear very different from the agricultural buildings that sat alongside them. The accounts also show how luxurious some manors were. The abbot of Bury-St-Edmunds constructed an extensive collection of buildings at Redgrave in Suffolk to let him enjoy hunting with dogs and hawks.
As well as my research, I’ve spent the week organising a conference session, thinking of a conference paper and finishing a chapter for a book. So, even thought I am only halfway through my PhD (and doing it part-time means I’ve another 3 years), I’ve lots of work to develop my research and try to apply it to the wider field of medieval archaeology and not just have a pile of case studies in a box on my desk. The exciting life that is academic research means that, although I’m stuck in a windowless box today looking at medieval parchment on a screen, I’ll soon get the opportunity to present my work to other archaeologists in exotic locations like Aberdeen and Leeds. Maybe next year when I post “from the field”, I’ll actually be out surveying one of my manors.