(Matthew P. Davies)
Education: Oxford University, M.A, D.Phil.
Office—Institute of Historical Research, Senate House, Malet St., London WC1E 7HU, England. E-mail—[email protected]
History of Parliament Trust, former staff member; University of London, London, England, director of the Centre for Metropolitan History, 2002—.
(Editor) The Merchant Taylors' Company of London: Court Minutes, 1486-1493, Paul Watkins (Stamford, CT), 2000.
(With Ann Saunders) The History of the Merchant Taylors' Company, Maney (Leeds, England), 2004.
(Editor, with Caroline M. Barron) The Religious Houses of London and Middlesex, Institute of Historical Research (London, England), 2007.
Contributor to books, including Crown, Government and People in the Fifteenth Century, edited by R.E. Archer, Stroud, 1995; Daily Life in the Late Middle Ages, edited by R.H. Britnell, Stroud, 1998; and Guilds, Society and Economy in London, 1450-1800, edited by I.A. Gadd and P. Wallis, CMH, 2001. Contributor to periodicals, including Parliamentary History and Ricardian.
Historian Matthew Davies specializes in British medieval and early modern history. He is particularly interested in the businesses and guilds that operated in London. He also is interested in the city's government, including lobbying efforts and the cooperation of London with the monarchy and with the surrounding cities, towns, and villages. His book The History of the Merchant Taylors' Company was written in collaboration with fellow historian Ann Saunders. By focusing on the history of the Merchant Taylors, the authors provide readers with insights on how such a livery company (what modern audiences would refer to as a guild) operated in the fifteenth century, and on what London society was like at the time. Merchant Taylors was one of the richest business organizations in the city at the time, and its influence was widely felt in everything from politics to education.
Davies and Saunders take on different parts of the history of the Merchant Taylors, with Davies covering the origins and early days and Saunders following the organization's history after that. Of The History of the Merchant Taylors' Company, James Robertson wrote in a Historian review: "The earliest chapters offer the freshest material." Davies uses guild minutes from centuries ago to reconstruct how the livery company was originally organized as a kind of fraternity of urban tailors. Membership was not restricted to those in the profession, however, and citizens of influence throughout London society were invited into the guild as friends who could possibly help the organization with its goals. Robertson considered this material to be very valuable to historians, but the critic was even more impressed with the way Davies's contribution puts the Merchant Taylors into historical perspective and helps to "explain the loyalties that tied citizens together" within London. Thus, the livery company's value can be seen more through a sociological perspective than one solely to do with economics. Writing in the Journal of Ecclesiastical History, Gervase Rosser pointed out other important factors concerning the guild: for instance, the role of the Merchant Taylors in assisting yeomen tailors who did not have the financial means to operate their own businesses, as well as "the educational role of the company." Rosser noted how Davies, for example, points out that one prominent guild member, Thomas Whyte, founded St. John's College at Oxford. The considerable funds of the Merchant Taylors helped aid in charitable cases, as well.
Rosser declared The History of the Merchant Taylors' Company "a particularly welcome addition to a new generation of London company histories," while S.J. Gunn, writing for the English Historical Review, praised it as an "exemplary edition" that offers "fascinating insights into the life of late fifteenth-century London."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
English Historical Review, November, 2001, S.J. Gunn, review of The Merchant Taylors' Company of London: Court Minutes, 1486-1493, p. 1259.
Historian, summer, 2006, James Robertson, review of The History of the Merchant Taylors' Company.
Journal of British Studies, October, 2005, Joseph P. Ward, review of The History of the Merchant Taylors' Company, p. 848.
Journal of Ecclesiastical History, October, 2007, Gervase Rosser, review of The History of the Merchant Taylors' Company, p. 756.
Reference & Research Book News, November, 2004, review of The History of the Merchant Taylors' Company, p. 105.
Sixteenth Century Journal, fall, 2006, Ian Mortimer, review of The History of the Merchant Taylors' Company.
Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies, January, 2007, John Oldland, review of The History of the Merchant Taylors' Company, p. 173.
Center for Metropolitan History Web site,http://www.history.ac.uk/ (April 2, 2008), author profile.
H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online, May, 2005, Pauline Croft, review of The History of the Merchant Taylors' Company.