Occasional reflections on Life, the World, and Mathematics

14th Century NIMBYism


In Juliet Barker’s book on the Great Revolt of 1381 I was struck by this comment on the spread of local grammar schools in England in the second half of the 14th century:

Where there was no dedicated room or building available, classes were held in the local church. In 1373 the Bishop of Norwich prohibited this practice in the schools of King’s Lynn, on the grounds that the cries of beaten children interrupted services and distracted worshippers.

Nowadays the bishop and the local residents would have cited the shortage of parking…

This reminds me, as another example of people sizing up a problem differently than we would be inclined to do today, of the London bylaw of 1595 that stipulated

No man shall after the houre of nine at the Night, keepe any rule whereby any such suddaine out-cry be made in the still of the Night, as making any affray, or beating hys Wife, or servant, or singing, or revyling in his house, to the Disturbance of his neighours.

I’m pretty sure that not even the staunchest advocate of traditional gender roles would think to categorise beating one’s wife with singing as two activities likely to disturb the neighbours.

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