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RoadworksMedieval Britain, medieval roads$
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Valerie Allen is Professor of English at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNYRuth Evans is Professor of English at Saint Louis University

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780719085062

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719085062.001.0001

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Getting there

Getting there

wayfinding in the Middle Ages

Chapter:
(p.127) 6 Getting there
Source:
Roadworks
Author(s):

Ruth Evans

Publisher:
Manchester University Press
DOI:10.7228/manchester/9780719085062.003.0006

In this chapter I address a gap in the study of medieval space, namely that there has been no systematic study by either medievalists or road historians of how European road travellers in the later Middle Ages found their way around: between countries, from one part of a country to another, or within unfamiliar towns and cities. How did travellers plan their journeys? What aids did they use for getting to their destinations? I present some of the evidence for medieval wayfinding, and provide some initial answers to these questions. I consider the use of guides, landmarks, maps, and urban signage, and draws on evidence from English literary texts and English-French phrasebooks. Wayfinding is simultaneously a technology, a memorial practice, and a cognitive competency. I argue that medieval wayfinding is best understood as a form of what Edwin Hutchins calls ‘naturally situated cognition’ or ‘distributed cognition, in that it depends on human co-operation. Moreover, the environment for medieval travellers was divided up into smaller, more manageable pieces and interconnections – what Kevin Lynch describes as paths, edges, districts, nodes and landmarks – that constitute a hierarchy of spatial knowledge that is significantly different from our understanding and negotiation of space today.

Keywords:   wayfinding, directions, roads, guides, landmarks, human co-operation, itinerary maps, signage, ‘naturally situated’ cognition

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