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ePortfolio of Joe Chick

Social Dynamics and Lay-Church Relations in the Monastic Town of Reading, 1350-1600

My project, supervised by Beat Kümin and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, looks at English urban society in the era of transition between the medieval and early modern periods. The thesis engages with a wide range of historical themes: local communities, social networks, oligarchy, marginalised groups, lord-tenant relations, monasticism, and popular religion.

The project uses a case study of the town of Reading, the entirety of which was held under the lordship of Reading Abbey. Medieval monastic towns are traditionally characterised in terms of their repressive lordship and violent town-abbey relations. As such, the dissolution of the monasteries has been presented either as a revolution or as a period of crisis. This portrayal is based to a large extent on case studies of Bury St Edmunds, St Albans, and Abingdon and overlooks other monastic towns, such as Reading, where disagreements were managed less violently. The common portrayal also fails to address why large-scale violence against the monastic lords in these three most-studied towns virtually ceased in the fifteenth century.

My project seeks to establish a fuller understanding of town-abbey relations by investigating the everyday social interactions in Reading. It aims to explore the social dynamics of the town by studying the social groupings which existed and the ways in which they interacted. The project engages with the debate over the state of the monasteries on the eve of the English Reformation. It looks at the impact of the dissolution on town society and whether this should be considered a revolution, a crisis or, as is rarely considered, a relatively smooth transition of power.

Academic Progression

MRes in Medieval Studies

University of Reading, 2014-2016, 82.5%

Dissertation: Reassessing the 1381 Rising in West Suffolk: Coordinated Revolt or Localised Events? (20,000 words)

Other Units: Latin & Paleography, Books of Hours, Chaucer, early rebellions in Bury St Edmunds

Prizes: Pickering Prize for highest mark in a medieval dissertation

Professional Graduate Certificate in Education

University of Winchester, 2010-2011, Pass

Course comprised: four 4000 word assignments and two school placements

BA (Hons) in Modern History

University of Oxford, 2004-2007, 2:1

Dissertation: Miners' Strike in South Wales 1984-85 (12,000 words)

Other Finals Units: Britain 1066-1330, Wars of the Roses, Reformation Europe, Britain 1685-1830, Imperialism in Africa


‘Leaders and Rebels: John Wrawe’s Role in the Suffolk Rising of 1381’, Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute for Archaeology & History , forthcoming (approved by peer review for 2018).

‘The 1381 Rising in Bury St Edmunds: The Role of Leaders and the Community in Shaping the Rebellion’, Pons Aelius 13 (2016), pp. 35-47.

Conference Papers

'The Dissolution of Reading Abbey: The Power Vacuum and its Impact on the Town', European Reformation Research Group: The Reformation: 500 Years On (University of Liverpool, 2017).

'The Peasants’ Revolt of 1381: Leadership in the Suffolk Rising', The Warwick History Postgraduate Conference (University of Warwick, 2017).

'Marxism and the Peasants’ Revolt: The Class Struggle Interpretation and its Problems', Graduate Centre for Medieval Studies Workshop (University of Reading, 2016).

Public Engagement

Webmaster for the My Parish website, an online resource that brings together researchers from a variety of areas of study who use parish sources. My responsibilities are writing reports for the group's annual symposium, answering enquiries from members, and general website updating and maintenance.

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Joe Chick

j dot chick at warwick dot ac dot uk