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Title: Manorial officeholding in late medieval and early modern England, 1300-1600
Author: Gibbs, Alex Spike
ISNI:       0000 0004 7961 9307
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
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This thesis investigates the role and identity of manorial officers, individuals drawn from a lord's tenants who were vital in administering his manor court and directly-farmed lands. It analyses officeholding from a social and political standpoint, examining the role of officers in governing village communities, and how this was affected by the decline of lordship and development of the state. The study deliberated bridges the medieval/early modern divide, analysing the period 1300-1600. The evidence base for this investigation relies on the reconstruction of officeholding from the court rolls of three case-study manors. These consist of Little Downham (Cambs.), Horstead (Norf.) and Worfield (Salop.). The first part of the thesis utilises quantitative methodologies to analyse the change in presentments made by officers (chapter one) and patterns in participation in office (chapter two). The second part adopts a qualitative approach to examine the role of officers in governing village communities (chapter three), attitudes to office among manorial tenants (chapter four), and the interaction of officeholding with the state and especially with the emergent civil parish (chapter five). Four central conclusions emerge from this work. Firstly, manorial officeholding remained an important institution in the English countryside across the period 1300-1600. Secondly, this was achieved via support from tenants who were invested in manorial office rather than pressure from lords or the crown. Thirdly, officeholding worked to create and reinforce social stratification, helping maintain the position of a village elite. Fourthly, the officeholding system was robust enough to survive the expansion of the state into local communities under successive English monarchs. These conclusions in turn have implications for the wider historical literature concerning late medieval and early modern England. They reinforce the revisionist argument that lord-tenant relations were not inevitability hostile and that many wealthier tenants benefitted from seignorial structures. More significantly, they add weight to the notion of a medieval equivalent to the early modern 'middling sort', suggesting that the emergence of a local elite was operative through manorial structures long before 1600.
Supervisor: Briggs, Christopher Daniel Sponsor: Trinity College
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Medieval history ; Economic history ; Early modern history ; Social history ; Manors ; Parish ; Local government ; Village politics ; Black Death ; Cambridgeshire ; Norfolk ; Shropshire