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Archaeologia Cantiana - Vol. 126   2006 page 423 - Book Reviews - continued

   The county’s status as a place where objects exclusive to a single region could be found forms part of one of several important themes which Hinton’s command of detail enables him to pursue across the volume. The gradual development of a national culture offers a context within which individual items gain greater meaning: the widespread existence of similar forms across different kingdoms suggests that ‘[b]y the middle of the seventh century, if not by its beginning, the aristocracy throughout England were as similar in their costume as they were in their speech’. Everyday material culture follows this pattern of standardisation around a century later, but by the end of the book ‘a significant difference between regions can be seen in portable material culture’ for the first time since the Norman Conquest. The rise of Christianity and the development of a money economy, literacy and the significance of personified objects, also crop up repeatedly in the different chapters. For example, the knife from Sittingbourne ‘with ‘Sigebereht owns me’ on one side and ‘Biorhtelm made me’ in conspicuously larger letters on the other’ hints at the complex relationships between owners and makers, the literate and the illiterate and the development of particular kinds of individuality and identity.
   But they are only hints. There is no room to linger over the meaning of objects in a way which complements their detailed description. It is also hard to trace the chronology of social and political change. Brief paragraphs, chiefly at the beginning and end of chapters, have to do the considerable work of placing the objects in ‘historical’ terms: the assertion that ‘Townspeople made up somewhere between seven and ten per cent of the total population in England, leaving the peasantry in an overwhelming majority’, for instance, helps enormously to situate the finds socially.
   The breadth of archaeological reference is both the strength and the limitation of this book then. But criticisms are in many ways requests for more – enquiries which are provoked by the variety of the material Hinton presents. There is enough here to trigger and begin to answer interesting questions on almost every aspect of the social, cultural and political history of Medieval Britain.


Edward Cresy 1792-1858. Architect and Civil Engineer. By Diana Burfield. xvii + 222 pp., 56 plates. Shaun Tyas, 2003. Cased with dust jacket. £24 from the publisher, 1 High Street, Donington, Lincolnshire PE11 4TA. ISBN 1 900289 65 2.

Biographies of locally memorable individuals are an important way of cladding the bare bones of history with human liveliness. This exceptionally thorough work is by a direct descendant of the subject. Cresy was

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