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Title: The fifteenth-century stewards' books of Southampton
Author: Thick, Anne Elizabeth
Awarding Body: University of Winchester
Current Institution: University of Winchester
Date of Award: 1997
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The main source used for this study is the series of Southampton town financial records known as the stewards' books. Little use has been made of the fifteenth-century stewards' books by historians of Southampton except by way of illustration in more general works.1 Preparation of an edition of the 1492-93 steward's book for Southampton Records Series showed that significant areas of research could be undertaken based on an examination of the books within the context of other records of Southampton's medieval town government.2 It was also clear that documenting Southampton's experience ,could contribute to general historical debate concerning the development of towns in the late Middle Ages. Comparison with similar records elsewhere would enable an assessment to be made of the extent to which Southampton followed national trends in the aspects to be considered. There is general agreement amongst historians that, in comparison with many other towns in the late Middle Ages, Southampton prospered in the fifteenth century.3 The main aim of the study is not, therefore, to contribute to general debate concerning the nature and extent of urban decline in the fifteenth century, but to show that Southampton's town government actively contributed to the town's success through good financial practices and investment in property. The town's record of financial management can be examined in several ways. The physical appearance of the stewards' books in terms of format, writing materials and language are important indicators of accounting techniques. Other financial aspects to be considered include the office and duties of the steward and his place in the official 1 hierarchy, the structure of financial control, accounting method, audit, and response to financial commitments. Study of the stewards' books has already indicated their importance as a source for understanding the way in which the town acquired its property during the fifteenth century.4 Further analysis of the entries is necessary to document more precisely the process of acquisition and the ways in which the town government not only maintained but increased property income at a time when many towns were experiencing a falling rental.5 Analysis of rental information also documents changes in the geographical distribution of town property, individual property history, and changes in tenancy. The stewards' books record in detail money spent on repairs to houses rented to tenants and on public works such as the quays and town conduit, indicating the town's commitment to maintain and enhance its investment in property. The record of repair and maintenance is an important source contributing to knowledge of building techniques and improvements in standards of living, and of the artisans who were employed to carry out the work. Special attention will be paid to references in the stewards' book to repairs on the town cranes, both as an example of major investment by the town in its property, and as an unusual opportunity to draw conclusions about their technology and repair methods.
Supervisor: James, Tom ; Platt, Colin Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available