A digital murder map of medieval London has been created which shows the most dangerous and violent streets of the city during the 14th century. University of Cambridge criminologist Professor Manuel Eisner has carefully surveyed all of the documented cases of murder that occurred between 1300 and 1340 and placed all of these upon a map that shows the “hot spots” of unbridled violence in London during this time.
As Phys.org reports, after analyzing records from the city’s coroner that recorded murders between 1300 and 1340, it was discovered that Cheapside and Cornhill were the two most violent spots in London and also the ones most likely to result in death if you happened to be there at the wrong time. And the wrong time, according to the murder map of London, was on Sunday, when the chance of death was greatest for medieval city folk.
As Eisner explained, this makes sense, especially when you consider the fact that Sundays were days that were mainly reserved for social activities, many of which turned tragically violent if alcohol was involved.
“Sunday was the day when people had time to engage in social activities, such as drinking and gaming, which would often trigger frictions that led to assault.”
And Sunday nights would have been the worst time of all. Of course, evenings in general were bad, and it was discovered that 77 percent of the murders that occurred in medieval London took place at this time, “around the hour of vespers.”
The vast majority of murders that took place in medieval London were committed in busy areas, with 68 percent taking place on the city’s streets and just 21 percent occurring in private spaces like homes. Out of favorite murder weapons, swords and daggers were the top weapons of choice, which were utilized in 68 percent of all murders. However, 19 percent of murders were committed using “quarter staff” poles. Perhaps not surprising is that 92 percent of those committing these murders were men.
The population of London during the 14th century was quite varied, and it is estimated that the city held between 40,000 to 100,000 residents. Given these figures, the murder rate in the city was around 15 to 20 percent higher than it would be today in a city in the UK with an equal number of residents.
According to the murder map of medieval London, some of the more interesting ways to be killed included:
“Stabbed by a lover with a fish-gutting knife. Beaten to death for littering with eel skins. Shot with an arrow during a student street brawl. Shanked by a sore loser after late-night backgammon.”
As Eisner has stated, by creating a murder map of medieval London, those who are interested in learning more about the grisly events that were apparently far from random occurrences can now search this map by weapon, crime scene, or year.
“The events described in the Coroners’ Rolls show weapons were never far away, male honor had to be protected, and conflicts easily got out of hand. They give us a detailed picture of how homicide was embedded in the rhythms of urban medieval life. By digitally mapping these murder cases, we hope to create an accessible resource for the public to explore these remarkable records.”
The digital murder map of medieval London is available through the Violence Research Center.