G. L. Harriss
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Introduction
in Political culture in later medieval England
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When Simon Walker began researching the retinue of John of Gaunt in 1980, 'bastard feudalism' had been the subject of debate for thirty-five years. He examines Yorkshire under Richard II and Henry IV, looking at the role of the four elements in the commissions: magnates, assize judges, justices of the quorum (local legal practitioners) and local gentry. Two principal conclusions emerged about political culture below the level of the literate political class: first, its ambivalence revealed a measure of sophistication and subtlety; and secondly, it broadly connected with the issues of high politics. Walker used case studies to build up a picture of collective mentalities among different social grades and vocational worlds. It was a challenging approach, for it meant working against the grain of the central sources, displaying sensitivity to other incidental evidence, and using conjecture and imagination with the utmost discipline.

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