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Title: Being one body : everyday institutional culture in Canterbury and Maidstone corporations, 1600-1660
Author: Leach, Avril
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2019
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This thesis concerns institutional group culture in the civic corporations of Canterbury and Maidstone, examining it through the lens of local organisational practice between 1600 and 1660. In this period, often characterised as one of disjuncture and disruption, a growing number of incorporated towns in early modern England, envisaged as a series of civic commonwealths, faced challenges of rising political and religious tensions after 1600 culminating in mid-century civil war. Corporation members, often overseers of parliamentary franchise, were involved with early Stuart contested elections and subject to post-1640 corporate purges, a factor in the development of late seventeenth-century partisan politics. Since urban corporations are frequently portrayed within a framework of elite political power, the contribution of everyday and institutionalised behaviours to a shared corporate cultural identity, their role in continuity of function and social responsibility after 1640, and their significance for socio-political developments has rarely been considered. This thesis investigates the relevance of diversity of experience of corporate officeholding by means of a comparative case study of 'organisational culture', using the understudied civic records of the two principal towns of seventeenth-century Kent, one a cathedral city, the other a market town. This study considers how the individuality of each corporate institution was founded in its urban context, chartered development, economic status, the form of corporate structure, and member demographics, and strengthened by non-institutional social, religious and spatial associations. It presents an analysis of burghmote meeting systems, a fundamental organisational requirement, and the scale and motivations of absenteeism, revealing unique working environments and tensions between personal and corporate life. By exploring an alternative view of the material political culture of town halls, civic gowns, and insignia, features commonly used to publicly express corporate identity and authority, it draws out their additional everyday significance for corporate communities and involvement in post-1640 continuity of civic life. Established mechanisms of urban patronage and hospitality, mediated by locally distinct food gifting patterns of venison and sugar loaves, are shown to undergo significant alteration in this period, prompted by the refashioning of personal relationships and wider cultural shifts. However, these changes are set against an enduring and stabilising consistency of local corporate dining customs, representative of, and important to, individual corporate cultures. The evidence presented develops our understanding of seventeenth-century urban governance by taking a new approach to the study of early modern borough corporations, nexus points of early modern social, political and administrative networks. It demonstrates the existence of a corporate 'private face' balancing external connections and public expressions of identity and power. This provided opportunities for communal bonding and individual dissent with a potential impact on individual lives and corporate decision-making. This has implications for research approaches to early modern relationships between individuals and institutions, between civic and domestic culture, and to processes of urban and political development.
Supervisor: Richardson, Catherine ; Fincham, Kenneth Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: DA Great Britain