The fifteenth-century stewards' book of Southampton.
The stewards' books, one of the main series of Southampton
town financial records, are the focus of this thesis. They
are examined, in conjunction with other records of town
administration, to demonstrate that Southampton's relative
prosperity in the fifteenth century was due not solely to a
favourable pattern of trade, but also to active management
of its resources by town government.
The stewards' books are evidence of improved bookkeeping
and accounting techniques, and the control of expenditure
through strict accounting and audit procedures. They show
that the town acquired much of its property in the fifteenth
century by bequest, at no initial cost to itself. Active
management ensured that its property remained an asset which
contributed to the town's income, whether houses let to
tenants, or structures in public use such as the cranes.
Additionally, the record of building and maintenance of the
town cranes in the stewards' books is evidence not only of
the town's investment in property, but has provided an
unusual, and perhaps unique, source of evidence for the
technology of the late-medieval English crane.
At a time when many towns were in decline, the evidence of
the stewards' books points to Southampton's relative
prosperity, which encouraged redevelopment and investment in
building. Although the town's prosperity was based
primarily on trade, the town contributed to that success
through the methods it employed to safeguard and enhance
town finances and property investments.