Skip to main content Skip to navigation

ePortfolio of Joe Chick

Cloisters and Clothiers:
The Social Impact of Reading’s Transition from Monastic Lordship
to Self-Governance, 1350-1600

I studied Modern History at Corpus Christi College, Oxford in 2004 to 2007 before undertaking the MRes Medieval Studies course at Reading, in which I pursued my interest in historical social relations through a dissertation on the 1381 revolt in western Suffolk. In 2016 I began an ESRC-funded PhD project at the University of Warwick, supervised by Beat Kümin, which looks at urban society in English monastic towns, defined as settlements in which a monastery was lord of the whole town. Such towns have traditionally been characterised in terms of robust lordship and violent town–abbey relations, a portrayal which the thesis re-evaluates. A case study of Reading has been at the core of the PhD, but with key areas of research replicated for Bury St Edmunds and Barking with a view to a monograph on the broader theme of monastic lordship following submission of the thesis.

The project has a number of features that distinguish it from existing scholarship. Firstly, in covering the years 1350-1600, the topic crosses the traditional divide between the medieval and early-modern eras. This allows it to engage with themes of transition and topics of debate, such as oligarchy, that have been approached differently by each set of historians. In monastic towns, the dissolution of the monasteries was not just a religious event, but also a political, economic, and social one. The thesis considers whether the dissolution in monastic towns should be considered a revolution, a crisis or, as is rarely considered, a relatively smooth transition of power.

Secondly, the PhD makes use of social network analysis, a method with roots in the social sciences that is currently emerging within pre-modern history. This approach treats individuals as ‘nodes’ and explores the connections between them. In this project, the method has proved valuable in exploring questions over the extent of interaction between high-status and lower-status inhabitants and whether this lessened in the sixteenth century when civic officials gained rights to self-government. As well as using network analysis to contribute to historical debates, my work examines the methodological challenges of analysing networks based on sources with incomplete survival. My findings were recently published in an article in Cultural and Social History.

Academic Progression

Postgraduate Certificate in Social Sciences Research

University of Warwick, 2016-2018, Merit

Award undertaken as part of a PhD studentship from the ESRC

Units: Research Design, Quantitative Methods, Social Science Philosophies, Qualitative Methods

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

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 Units: Britain 1042-1330, Wars of the Roses, Reformation Europe, Britain 1685-1830, Imperialism in Africa

Awards and Funding

ESRC Doctoral Studentship

2016-2020, University of Warwick

'Urban Identities: Past and Present' conference funding

2019, Humanities Research Council, Connecting Cultures GRP, and Warwick History Department

Best Postgraduate Paper Prize, runner-up

Social History Society, 2018

Pickering Prize for highest mark in a medieval dissertation

2016, University of Reading


Urban Oligarchy and Dissolutioned Voters: The End of Monastic Rule in Reading, 1350-1600’, Cultural and Social History, 16 (2019), pp. 387-411.

Leaders and Rebels: John Wrawe’s Role in the Suffolk Rising of 1381’, Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute for Archaeology & History, 44 (2018), pp. 214-234.

‘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.

Book Chapters

‘Monks, Merchants, and Matrices: A Social Network Analysis of Reading in 1350-1600’, in Charlotte Berry and Esther Lewis (eds.), Negotiating Networks: Social Network Analysis in Social and Economic History (forthcoming, accepted for publication).

Book Reviews

Review of Clive Burgess, 'The Right Ordering of Souls': The Parish of All Saints' Bristol on the Eve of the Reformation (Woodbridge, 2018), Urban History, 46 (2019), pp. 770-71.

Review of Richard Goddard and Teresa Phipps (eds.), Town Courts and Urban Society in Late Medieval England, 1250-1500 (Woodbridge, 2019), Journal of British Studies (forthcoming).

Conference Papers

'Blessings and 'Cursus': Officeholding and Social Mobility in the Monastic Town of Reading, 1350-1600', International Conference on Urban History (University of Antwerp, forthcoming in September 2020).

'Holding all the Courts: Obtaining Justice under Monastic Lords', International Medieval Congress (University of Leeds, forthcoming in July 2020).

'The Impact of Missing Data on Network Centrality Measures', Economic History Society Annual Conference (University of Oxford, forthcoming in April 2020).

'Reading: The Reformation', European Reformation Research Group (Newman University, 2019).

'Dealing with Data Loss: Network Analysis with Incomplete Datasets', International Medieval Congress (University of Leeds, 2019).

'Projected Image versus Day-to-Day Life: The Governing Class of Fifteenth- and Sixteenth-Century Reading', Urban Identities: Past and Present (University of Warwick, 2019).

'Take No Parishioners: Poverty Management in Fifteenth- and Sixteenth-Century Parishes', The Warwick History Postgraduate Conference (University of Warwick, 2019).

'Chronic Relief: Parishioners and Poverty in Fifteenth- and Sixteenth-Century Reading', Warwick Symposium on Parish Research (University of Warwick, 2019).

'Identity as a Political Tool: The Pursuit of Independence in Late Medieval Reading', International Congress on Medieval Studies (Western Michigan University, 2019).

'Industry and Independence: Reading’s Transformation of 1470-1510', The Fifteenth Century Conference (University of Reading, 2018).

'Memory, Identity, and Power: The Pursuit of Self-Government in the Monastic Town of Reading, 1253-1539', International Medieval Congress (University of Leeds, 2018).

'Monks, Merchants, and Matrices: A Social Network Analysis of Reading in 1350-1600', Negotiating Networks Conference (Institute of Historical Research, 2018).

'Inclusion, Exclusion, and the Pursuit of Identity: Town–Abbey Relations in Late Medieval Reading', Social History Society Conference (Keele University, 2018).

'Experiencing Network Issues: Using Network Analysis with Medieval Sources', The Warwick History Postgraduate Conference (University of Warwick, 2018).

'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).

University Teaching Employment

Europe in the Making 1450-1800, undergraduate seminar group at the University of Warwick, 2019-20

The Medieval World, undergraduate seminar group at the University of Warwick, 2018-19

Medieval Latin, assisted with teaching and led one session at the University of Reading, 2015-16

Public Engagement

In May 2020 I will be leading a lecture and seminar on the theme of 'Guilds and Popular Religion' as part of a community course on ‘Religious Culture in Europe between the late medieval period and the Reformation’ run by the University of Warwick's Renaissance Centre.

In March 2019 I delivered the annual spring lecture to the Friends of Reading Abbey local history group on the topic of 'The Impact of the Dissolution of 1539 on the Town of Reading'.

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.

Profile Picture

Joe Chick

j dot chick at warwick dot ac dot uk