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Source Exercise 3: The Medieval Universe 7

  • Definitely true Without further evidence we cannot accept this as definitely proved. What is definitely true is that Ralph of Coggeshall reported a 'wild man' being fished out of the sea at Orford.
  • Probably true It seems unlikely that absolutely nothing happened, because of the reference to the man’s being brought before the castellan. We may decide therefore that a man probably was fished up; whether or not he was a 'wild man' is harder to say. Cases of people living wild are not unknown and this man’s behaviour tallies with later descriptions of ‘feral’ children. On the other hand, he may have been suffering a mental illness. His behaviour was certainly considered wild enough to amaze the castellan and cause a guard to be placed on him. That his behaviour seemed wild looks probable; whether or not he was a 'wild man' is more open to conjecture.
  • Possibly true It is certainly possible that a man was fished up; the fact that he was brought before the castellan and that Ralph had an account of this meeting (he knows the castellan's reaction) suggests probability rather than mere possibility. Whether or not the man was a 'wild man' depends on our knowledge of other such cases; these, though rare, are not unknown. On the other hand, he may have been suffering a mental illness. The carvings on the font certainly suggest that medieval people were familiar with the idea of 'wild men'. We must therefore conclude that this statement is at least possible.
  • Definitely untrue We have no evidential basis for this claim.
  • Not shown by the evidence Although the truth of the case may not be quite as Ralph presents it, we cannot say that this statement is not shown by the evidence: it clearly is.

C. Local people looked for leadership to the king’s officials.
Definitely true;

  • Probably true;
  • Possibly true;
  • Definitely untrue;
  • Not shown by the evidence.

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