Simon Walker
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Communities of the county in later medieval England
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The 'county community' in later medieval England enjoyed a brief but influential vogue during the 1980s. It was one of a number of lesser solidarities, the parish, the hundred, the kindred, the affinity, which might each play a part of variable significance in the social, and occasionally the political, life of the later medieval gentry. This chapter defines what that part was and suggests how it may have changed over time. It can be assumed that there were three separate stages in the evolution of the county community. In the first stage, the shire gained both definition and authority by its acquisition of a range of new administrative powers and responsibilities. The second, the 'social' phase, saw changes that were principally demographic and driven by high levels of plague-related mortality. In the third, chiefly political, phase, county society responded to external pressures, principally the polarisation of national politics.

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