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Title: Lay urban identities in late medieval Lincoln 1288-1400
Author: Kissane, Alan
Awarding Body: University of Nottingham
Current Institution: University of Nottingham
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis explores various expressions of urban identity by considering how they were conceived and perpetuated by individuals and groups alike. Using the city of Lincoln as a case study, it focuses primarily upon civic officials and other middling to wealthy inhabitants, analyses their use and appropriation of urban space and explores a series of socio-religious, economic and institutional changes, c.1288-1400. It also details the extent to which urban-crown relations and the demographic crisis of the Black Death were significant factors in the formation of these identities. The first of five thematic chapters deals with the evolving organisation and structure of urban government. It charts the residential patterns of civic officials and argues that propinquity and shared experience were important features in the development of civic identity. It argues that the city's court was central in both a figurative and physical sense to the clearly defined civic identity which emerged within the 'neighbourhood' of the guildhall from the 1330s onwards following legislative and constitutional developments brought about by the restitution of the city's liberties in 1299. Chapter two expands upon the concept of 'neighbourhood' by charting the residential patterns of the main actors recorded in pleas of writ de recto and wills. It argues that urban relationships between individuals were largely built upon the foundations of the parish or neighbourhood, and that business and personal ties remained strictly separate. Following the Black Death, however, new patterns began to emerge for some groups as relationships became increasingly centred upon the court. Whilst on the one hand this presented aspirants to civic office with greater opportunities for personal advancement following the deaths of so many, on the other it effectively resulted in a decline in parochial identity and representation in the city court. Chapter three deals with the growth and proliferation of guilds. It argues that the Black Death was not a significant factor in their foundation, with the majority of fraternal development taking place before 1349. Plague was still important in other ways, however, and guilds not only began to place greater emphasis on participation by members but declining revenues meant that the types of religious practices they were able to undertake changed. Lincoln maintained a strong and centralised fraternal network under the auspices of civic government which saw new guilds emerge in 2 parishes previously without them, with each coordinating their services and rituals according to a clear understanding of urban space. Such collaborative efforts are reflected in the certificates returned to the Royal Chancery in 1389, though they were not uniform, with each adopting their own unique identity based on membership, religious veneration and urban topography. Chapter four details the propagation of lay founded chantries in the city and argues that there emerged a distinct class of chantry founders based upon ownership and access to lands and properties, many of whom sought to use perpetual and temporary chantries to promote their own social status by establishing them in key residential areas. As such, the rental market was a central concern for founders, in particular perpetual chantries, which, following the devastation of the population due to plague, began to suffer as a result. Chapter five argues that the relationship between civic government and the crown was informed by the organisation and payment of the fee farm, which reflected upon the 'civic image' of the city, all of which was carefully managed and controlled by civic officials. It argues that the onerous, even illegal, demands of the crown helped fashion civic policy, especially towards rival jurisdictions, as the city sought out new revenues beyond its legally defined jurisdiction. Finally, it questions the validity of using the fee farm as an indication of urban decline and argues that it is necessary for wider fiscal considerations to be made if a fuller understanding of prosperity or decline is to be gleaned. The outcome of this research is that it challenges the established orthodoxy of Lincoln's decline during the fourteenth century by offering a new narrative of continuing prosperity up to the early fifteenth. Secondly, it reassesses the impact of the Black Death on guild and chantry foundations suggesting that existing historiography on the timing of the flourishing of English urban lay piety should be fundamentally questioned. Thirdly, it suggests that, rather than providing unambiguous evidence of economic decline, towns' negotiations with the crown over their fee farm payments and contributions to royal taxation were actually shaped by the crown's efforts to balance its financial obligations with those of towns to maintain corporate status. Lastly, it emphasises that individual and corporate identities developed not only through procession and ritual, as other works highlight, but through more mundane uses of space. 3
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available