Lecture Title: "Evil May Day, 1517: Riots Against Immigrants in Tudor London"
Abstract: On the eve of May Day, 1517, rioting Londoners rose up in the night and attacked the homes and persons of strangers. From about nine o'clock the night of 30 April, the rioters ran through the streets of the City, targeting areas in which stranger artisans and merchants were known to live and work. By three in the morning, the riot had run its course and the City officials had re-established a precarious order. Although a later ballad portrayed Evil or Ill May Day, as the riot came to be known, as a "bloody Slaughter" of strangers, with the drainage channels in the streets running with blood, all the evidence suggests that no strangers lost their lives in the attacks, damage being limited to assaults and the sacking of houses and shops. A close examination of this episode in its own early sixteenth-century context offers us an entrée into the complicated situation of the rioters' primary targets, the immigrant artisans, mostly Dutch, who lived in certain enclaves in the City, most numerously in the precinct of St. Martin le Grand. If the attacks they suffered on Evil May Day were hardly typical of their daily lives, the sparks for the riots and the responses from City and crown were part of the larger complex of their existence at the margins of London civic life.
Bio: Professor McSheffrey's research interests centre around law, mitigation, gender roles, civic culture, marriage, literacy, heresy, and popular religion in late medieval England. She has published a number of scholarly articles and four books, Gender and Heresy: Women and Men in Lollard Communities, 1420-1530 (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1995); Love and Marriage in Late Medieval London (Medieval Institute Publications, 1995); Lollards of Coventry 1486-1522 (co-authored with Norman Tanner), Camden Fifth Series, vol. 23 (Cambridge University Press, 2003); Marriage, Sex, and Civic Culture in Late Medieval London (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006). A fifth book, Seeking Sanctuary: Law, Mitigation, and Politics in English Courts, 1400-1550, is forthcoming from Oxford University Press in summer 2017. She has won several awards for her research and teaching and was elected a fellow of the Royal Historical Society of the U.K. in 2002.