Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York
 



Laurel Ann Wilson



"The Other Cloth: Linen and Canvas in Medieval England"

Winner of the Loomie Prize for Best Graduate Student Paper, 1996

In this paper, Laurel identifies the hitherto unidentified role of linen and canvas in the economy of medieval England, and provides a convincing argument for the importance of their production and distribution. As Laurel notes, English historians of textiles have tended to equate cloth with woollen cloth. In part, this was because English woollen production was well documented, whereas the few records of canvas and, to a lesser extent, linen have suggested that they were imports. Laurel had the imagination to recognize a different possibility: what if linen and canvas were domestic products, in some way outside the formal, tax-paying economy of the wool records?

There is no one body of sources that documents a linen and canvas trade, otherwise it might have received more attention, but Laurel's diligence has paid off: the search in the literary, administrative, archaeological, urban, rural and noble records in several languages established that linen and canvas were widely used, produced and traded. The committee was particularly struck by your use of iconographical material, and by the deft presentation of the technical side of cloth production.

"The Other Cloth: Linen and Canvas in Medieval England" is a significant contribution to the field, and a paper as remarkable for its research and presentation as for its significance.

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