Defining and regulating the immigrant
in Immigrant England, 1300–1550
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Chapter 2 explains how a series of political, legal and fiscal changes between the thirteenth and the fifteenth centuries created the concept and entity of the ‘alien’. It examines how this interacted, and sometimes conflicted, with notions of nationality in the kingdom of England and its dependent dominions in Wales, Ireland and parts of France. It emphasises the need that the English state and urban jurisdictions felt to grant rights to aliens coming into the realm, and traces the various antecedents of what is now called naturalisation. The most important of these processes, ‘denization’, is shown to have emerged in the 1370s as a means by which foreign-born people could transfer their allegiance to the English crown and achieve near parity of status with those born within the kingdom. The chapter moves on to discuss anti-alien feeling in later medieval politics, focusing on campaigns against three groups: clergy; brokers and merchants; and artisans. Close questions are asked about whether the rhetoric of such campaigns can be taken as evidence of a more generalised ‘alien problem’, and whether the legislation that resulted from such pressure was actually enforced.

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