Conclusion: The Shape of the Social Self

Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


To understand the significance of the life narratives in chapter 8 is to see that agency exists even when nothing of “importance” happens. It is really an effect of a mind. It is the place of meaning, not only of action. It belongs to the politically and the economically insignificant person as surely at to the powerful. Action itself, the great business that needs explanation, is intelligible only in the boundaries of meaning, in the domain of petty intentions and failures. Part of the job of history is to render embodied meaning in all its manifestations; it is to understand the human situation—all its probable potential—in a historical moment.The social self is a cultural complex, a category that enables our understanding by drawing social history and agency together. It is a powerful aide to seeing the “structuration”—in Giddens’ sense—of the world, of self and society, body and idea, person and person.


Social World Social History Life Narrative Great Business Absentee Landlord 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Stephen Rigby, English Society in the Later Middle Ages (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    See Christopher Dyer, “Small Town Conflict in the Later Middle Ages. Events at Shipston-on-Stour,” Urban History 19 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 190.Google Scholar
  3. Carl I. Hammer, “Anatomy of an Oligarchy: The Oxford Town Council in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries,” Journal of British Studies 18 (1978–79): 1–27;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Stephen Rappoport, Worlds Within Worlds. Structures of Life in Sixteenth-Century London (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Maryanne Kowaleski, “The Commercial Dominance of a Medieval Provincial Oligarchy: Exeter in the Late Fourteenth Century,” Mediaeval Studies 46 (1984): 355–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 9.
    Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989).Google Scholar
  7. 11.
    Most powerfully argued by John Bossy, Christianity in the West, 1400–1700 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985).Google Scholar
  8. 13.
    Stephen Greenblatt, Renaissance Self-Fashioning (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© David Gary Shaw 2005

Authors and Affiliations

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations