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Title: The role of written records in peasant tenure and litigation : a study of the manor court rolls of Wakefield (Yorkshire) and Alrewas (Staffordshire) before 1381
Author: Harrison, Charlotte Elizabeth
ISNI:       0000 0004 2733 7543
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2012
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This thesis is an examination of the uses of whiten records in peasant land tenure, transfers and litigation on the late medieval English manor. It has been widely accepted that the peasantry, although largely illiterate, developed a 'document consciousness' through their growing familiarity with the written culture of the royal and seigniorial administrations. As well as aiming to investigate the extent and nature of the use of written records by the peasants of the manors, the thesis attempts to address the question of what drove the use, and the extent to which the ability to participate in written culture actually mattered to peasants, both functionally and symbolically. The mechanisms for the transfer of customary land, both by illegal charters and by surrender and admittance in the manor court, are discussed in Chapter 2. The confiscation of charters from the tenants of the manor of Barnet by St Albans Abbey is compared with that of the villein charters which were enrolled in the Carte Nativorum of Peterborough Abbey, and the motives of both the peasants and the abbeys for their actions are discussed. It has been suggested that the manor court rolls offered peasants security of tenure, and allowed an increased complexity in land transfers, and the enrolment of inter-peasant transactions and vouchers of records in litigation have been cited as evidence that the peasantry embraced the benefits of the manorial records. Chapter 3 moves on to consider the extent to which the court rolls were vouched in litigation in the courts at Wakefield and Alrewas, concluding that there was no significant shift towards the use of written evidence over the course of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Chapter 4 investigates what voucher of the roll meant in practice, arguing that copies were not usually issued to tenants in this period, and suggesting that the rolls were far from infallible. Chapter 5 analyses the circumstances in which the rolls were vouched, finding that the case studies support the argument that written evidence was vouched mainly in factual pleading rather than to show custom or precedent. Having argued that evidence drawn from the court's own records could be rejected in the light of other equitable considerations, the thesis will go on to consider whether written evidence could be demanded, looking at cases heard at Wakefield court in which 'specialty' was demanded. Chapter 6 addresses the relationship between written and non-written evidence in land litigation in the manor court. It considers to the question of to what extent we can detect the attitudes of the community at large and of individuals towards the use of written evidence, looking at the extent to which writing played a practical or symbolic role in the relationships between lords and peasants and within peasant communities. Finally, possibilities for further research in this area are suggested, both in the context of the manor and considering the wider spheres in which peasants operated.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available