Skip to main content
Kent Academic Repository

The construction and representation of urban identities : public and private lives in late medieval Bury St Edmunds

Merry, Mark Liam (2000) The construction and representation of urban identities : public and private lives in late medieval Bury St Edmunds. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86171) (KAR id:86171)


This thesis relocates the individual within the processes of representation in order to compensate for the relative neglect the subject has received in recent treatments of medieval urban studies. It reassesses the behaviour of urban communities not in terms of the demographic and economic, by aligning the particular community along the growth/decline debate; but by viewing social process in terms of the interpersonal relationships of the town's inhabitants. This has been pursued by examining the construction and representation of personal and communal identity within defined urban contexts, and by suggesting a method by which these subjects might provide a useful critical tool for approaching traditional urban historical concerns from a new perspective. Sociological conceptualisations of self, person and community have been invoked to provide a vocabulary for discussing the issues involved, and methods for reconsidering approaches to evidence using a combination of qualitative and quantitative techniques. Using Bury St Edmunds, a relatively sophisticated and somewhat distinctive urban community, an examination of the ways in which identity and self representation are enacted by its inhabitants is undertaken to establish the role of the individual within the social processes at work within urban communities. it is shown that identity can be seen as a mechanism by which communities order and regulate their participants. Specific case studies of individual identity are presented alongside a model of communal identity in the town, with the intention of situating the individual constructions of identity within the contextual discourses of identity produced by the community. The location of the individual within the communal constructions of identity enables the observation of the effects that individuals had upon their late medieval urban communities, with the result that the nature of social change can be seen to originate from the activities and perceptions of individuals, rather than communities.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86171
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 09 February 2021 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: Community
Subjects: A General Works > AZ History of Scholarship. The Humanities
C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CB History of civilization
D History General and Old World > D History (General)
L Education > LA History of education
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of History
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2019 16:31 UTC
Last Modified: 14 Feb 2022 12:46 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

  • Depositors only (login required):

Total unique views for this document in KAR since July 2020. For more details click on the image.