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Old July 27th, 2018, 01:50 PM   #1

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British Isles regional difterences


I was wondering, how big was the difference between various regions or areas of the British Isles? Which regions would be the most backwards compared to others? Let's put the time frame roughly after the Norman conquest of England until the War of the Roses although I am interested in the pre-Norman era as well.

Would England be generally be more advanced than Wales or Scotland? Of course there would be internal differences too. Scottish Highlands would be more of a backwater than the Lowlands, I imagine, and Northern England and probably more backwards than Southern England? Where does Ireland fit in the picture?

To make things clear, by "backwards" I mean poorer, with a lower standard of living (both nobility and peasentry), less trade and traffic connections with the rest of the world, areas where news take a longer while to get to, where the King may have trouble enforcing his rule, where innovations don't reach for centuries, where the next city can practically be reached as easily as China etc. Periphery, if you will.
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Old July 27th, 2018, 02:29 PM   #2

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I'm English and I won't even speak to the people in the next town/city to me. Strange people, with some very peculiar habits. My mother in law warned me against them when I was in my early twenties and as time has gone by, I believe her
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Old July 27th, 2018, 03:02 PM   #3
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Definitely England for that time period.

Norman England, after the conquest, was one of the most advanced nations of Europe at the time, with a strong, well developed central administration, one of tne most developed nation court and judicial systems in Europe at the time. The oldest universities in the British Isles, and anong the oldest in Europe, Oxford and Cambridge, were in England.

Keep in mind the population of England is significantly higher than the rest of the British Isle, more than Wales, Scotland and Irelnad combined.

Even going way back, the Roman presence in what is now England was greater than the rest of Britain, and London was the capital of Roman Britain and had a respectible population of 30,000 to maybe 40,000, not bad for ancient cities.
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Old July 27th, 2018, 03:16 PM   #4

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bart Dale View Post
Definitely England for that time period.

Norman England, after the conquest, was one of the most advanced nations of Europe at the time, with a strong, well developed central administration, one of tne most developed nation court and judicial systems in Europe at the time. The oldest universities in the British Isles, and anong the oldest in Europe, Oxford and Cambridge, were in England.

Keep in mind the population of England is significantly higher than the rest of the British Isle, more than Wales, Scotland and Irelnad combined.

Even going way back, the Roman presence in what is now England was greater than the rest of Britain, and London was the capital of Roman Britain and had a respectible population of 30,000 to maybe 40,000, not bad for ancient cities.
Thanks.

I read that Ireland had good trade connections with Europe in the Dark Ages though?

I know the Scots wouldn't be the cavemen Braveheart wants us to believe they were in those times, but would Scottish nobleman be poorer than their English peers?
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Old July 27th, 2018, 04:37 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Shtajerc View Post
Thanks.

I read that Ireland had good trade connections with Europe in the Dark Ages though?

I know the Scots wouldn't be the cavemen Braveheart wants us to believe they were in those times, but would Scottish nobleman be poorer than their English peers?
Ireland before the time of the Norman conquest was not much mor backwards than England, and was noted for its scholarship in tne very early middle ages, before the 9th century CE. Viking raids probably had an adverse effect, and you don't heqr as much about Irish scholars later on in the middle ages.

And Ireland did have good trade connections. When tne Vikings established the city of Dublin, they also gained trade connections with through it. But the volume of trade still wasn't ad great as England. English population was larger, and closer connections to the continent.


The Scottish nobles would have been somewhat poorer than their English peers, the farmland of Scotland is not as rich, and the population smaller. Otherwise, they would have been similar.
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Old July 30th, 2018, 12:47 AM   #6
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Scottish Highlands would be more of a backwater than the Lowlands, I imagine,
The Highlands were always less populous and less wealthy than the Lowlands, but even so, very large areas of the Lowlands were economically fragile and subject to endemic internal and external violence until 1603.

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and Northern England and probably more backwards than Southern England?
On your definition, yes. But even then, there were regional differences. For pre-industrial Britain, wealth was linked to land and markets. The better the land, the more could be produced and the wealthier people became. Good arable land meant crop surpluses meant wealth. For much of the medieval period, Britain was an exporter of unfinished goods, especially wool. Good pasture meant big flocks meant wealth.

So, the wealth was concentrated in the lowlands of southern and eastern England, where the best agricultural land is. Those areas are also closest to the continental markets where many British goods ended up. This explains why so many small villages in rural counties such as Norfolk have such beautiful churches - all built on profits from the medieval wool trade.

It's best not to think north/south but instead to think in terms of the Tee/ Exe line - a diagonal line which runs between the rivers Tees and Exe (no s**t, Sherlock). The best land is largely to the east of that line. It includes northern areas, notably the Vale of York and East Yorkshire, which is full of smart old villages which speak of earlier wealth. It also includes East Anglia and the Midland counties such as Lincolnshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire, all of which were made wealthy on farming. The pretty, mountainous bits of Britain are to the west of that line. Nice to look at, but far less suited to producing an agricultural surplus, although there are exceptions, such as the Cheshire Plain and the Merse, north of Berwick upon Tweed.

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Where does Ireland fit in the picture?
A beacon of early medieval learning. As you say, it had important early trade connections with the Byzantine Empire. Central Ireland is fertile - think of the country as a massive saucer with the mountains round the edges.

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where the King may have trouble enforcing his rule,
That was about topography and bureaucracy rather than anything else. England had a relatively developed bureaucracy and is pretty easy to get around. Whist there were areas where royal power was less obvious (notably along the Scottish border), remote areas were still relatively governable. This contrasts to the situation in Scotland, where difficult geography and weak central government meant that power was often exercised by local magnates - clan leaders in the Highlands and the heads of the big riding families in the south and west. The latter were very similar to the former in many ways, but without the rich whiff of Victorian whimsy to keep them on shortbread tins.
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Old July 30th, 2018, 01:37 AM   #7

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@Peter Graham - we learned about the Tee-Exe divide (although not by this name), I generalisingly said North and South, but you're of course right, the line goes diagonally. I always imagine plots of land divided by stone enclosures and lots of sheep in the Northwest (edit) while in the Southeast (edit) it's divided by hedgerows and such. My picture probably isn't accurate ...

York, yes, I never thought of it as godforsaken. The east coast of Britain also had good connections with Hanseatic cities, didn't it? I think I recall a member saying in another thread mentioning how in some Scottish coastal towns they even took some Low German words in their dialects.

Last edited by Shtajerc; July 30th, 2018 at 02:44 AM.
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Old July 30th, 2018, 01:59 AM   #8
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I always imagine plots of land divided by stone enclosures and lots of sheep in the Northeast
That's more the north-west than the north-east. Upland sheep are pretty much the only thing that can thrive on poor mountainous soils, which is why there are so many sheep in mountainous areas such as Wales and Cumbria. Most of the land is too rubbish for anything else (although even then, there are exceptions). However, the sheep that made medieval Britain rich are the fat, lowland breeds, not the hardy, lean upland varieties. The lowland breeds still exist, but most of the south and east is now used for arable, rather than pastoral farming.

In Britain, 'stone enclosures' means dry stone walls. They are 'dry' because no mortar is used. They are a feature of many parts of the country and there are regional variations in construction and look due to differing geology.

Quote:
while in the Southwest it's divided by hedgerows and such. My picture probably isn't accurate ...
The south-west is also upland, so they have dry stone walls there too.

Of course, there are plenty of hedges in the north and west too, but hedgerows are undoubtedly more common in the south and east, along with wooden post and rail fences.

Quote:
York, yes, I never thought of it as godforsaken. The east coast of Britain also had good connections with Hanseatic cities, didn't it?
Yes it did.

I wouldn't go quite as far as to say that any part of Britain is 'godforsaken'.

Quote:
I think I recall a member saying in another thread mentioning how in some Scottish coastal towns they even took some Low German words in their dialects.
Quite possibly
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Old July 30th, 2018, 02:29 AM   #9

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Accents can change over a relatively short distance, though transport and international exposure are eroding these, London has an accent now which is a mixture of Pakistani/West Indian accents... no English regional influence on it.

Culturally there are local differences in types of dishes, cakes, cheeses, beers, and sausages, that are made and e joyed. Staffordshire oatcakes being one example.

Sport... football is ubiquitous all over the country. In England there is a north/south divide over rugby codes... northern counties favour league, southern favour union. Though this is also influenced by class. Cricket is mainly played in England ... Welsh and Scottish fans of the game being very much minorities. Scotland, is a footballing country but it also has Shinty, which is like aggressive Hockey, Ireland also has Hurling which is related to Shinty.
Gaelic football is particular to Ireland.

Music- in popular music there is little difference. London, Manchester, Glasgow and Birmingham churn out most of the rock, alternative, rap, and drum and bass music. Bristol also an important place for electronic music.
Traditional music- each country has its own styles and songs, they’ve all borrowed and influenced each other at some point. The romanticism of “Celts” will often leave you with the impression that all traditional music is Irish or Scottish, but the English are well represented if you care to explore the genre with lots of young English people keeping the music alive. Folk music is quite widespread... it’s strongest appeal is usual out in small towns and country areas though. There are many types of intstruments... which often have many varieties bagpipes, made famous by the Scottish highland regiments, were not unique to Scotland ... Northumbrian pipers still exist, Lincolnshire and Staffordshire had their own styles, some musical historians are trying to recreate these.

Traditional clothes- nowhere in Britain has real traditional clothes, but several have created their own based on peasent dress. Scotland is famous for its kilts, and Welsh women for their shawls and top hats... England forsakes this custom,maybe a shame or maybe not, it could if it wants to create one. But for now the flat cap is about the closest they get.
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Old July 30th, 2018, 02:31 AM   #10

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Oops. Just realised this was I medieval history!! Sorry about that.
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