In November of 2018, I gave a talk at the Harvard Divinity School as part of the Sound Education Conference. The talk was an overview of the history of English called “Regarding English.” The final version of the speech was edited for time, so I have recorded the original version of the speech with the parts that were left out. Enjoy!
Like much of western Europe, England experienced a significant growth in population during the two centuries after the Norman Conquest. By the 1300s, the percentage of the English population who lived in urban areas had doubled. As towns and cities grew, jobs became more specialized. The rise of specialized occupations led many workers to adopt their occupation as a surname. In this episode, we’ll explore the job market of the 14th century, and we’ll examine the origin of many common occupational surnames.