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Anthony Musson

This chapter maintains that the key concerns and political debates during the period 1215-1381 invariably rested on issues of legal import, among them ways of defining the legitimate exercise of royal power, matters of jurisdiction, law and order, and the functioning of the judicial system. It examines some of the contexts in which law entered the political arena and the processes by which royal authority was transmitted to, and received by, subjects. The chapter focuses on kingship and particularly the use of image and rhetoric in upholding public order and maintaining confidence in the law. It considers the attempts on the part of successive monarchs to legitimise their actions on the national and international stage by applying legal concepts and processes. The chapter looks at 'popular' attitudes towards the law and the assimilation of legal concepts as manifested in the Peasants' Revolt.

in Medieval law in context
Abstract only
Peter Fleming

The politics of later medieval England have acquired an unsavoury reputation: this was an age of king-killers, after all. Sir John Scott and Sir John Fogge dominated Kentish politics during their time as, respectively, controller and treasurer of Edward IV's household. Each of these local leaders had his own gentry networks. Service in the king's wars, either on campaign or as part of a castle garrison, gave many of the gentry experience of England's Celtic neighbours and, of course, France. Office-holding provided the framework within which the greater gentry led their public lives. The Church held vast estates, and the major religious houses needed servants, estate officials, lawyers and well-wishers, creating their own 'affinities' within which the gentry found employment. In many cases, the greater gentry were perfectly capable of maintaining their autonomy.

in Gentry culture in late-medieval England
Phillipp R. Schofield

Since the mid-twentieth century, much of the discussion of the medieval English peasantry has been determined by consideration of the overarching theme of population and the availability of resources relative to the peasant's capacity to cope in his or her world. It was the work of M.M. Postan which effected a crucial shift in the study of the medieval peasant by introducing a broad thesis of economic change based upon the relationship between population and resources. This chapter begins with a discussion of Postan's thesis of population movement before exploring it both in relation to his own views on the medieval English peasantry and, further, the application of that thesis by a generation of historians writing subsequent to Postan. This overview of Postan's work and its response summarises what can, with some justification, be described as the predominant explanatory model for the historiography of the medieval English peasantry.

in Peasants and historians
Anthony Musson

The acquisition and development of legal consciousness among those who were not themselves lawyers or judges are significant features of the political history of the period 1215-1381. An individual's obligations within a particular community and his or her awareness of those obligations contributed further to the level of consciousness of the law. Attendance at public courts was an important way of acquiring legal knowledge. Attendance at church, required by the 1215 Lateran Council, provided various opportunities for the acquisition of legal knowledge. At all levels of the court system, legal knowledge was a concomitant of experience gained from, and in many cases a necessary requirement for, employment as a court official and service as a juror. Finally, an understanding of the law could be acquired either directly or indirectly from the growing documentary culture, from book learning and/or from exposure to literature relating to legal matters.

in Medieval law in context
Anthony Musson

The emergence of a distinct legal profession was one of the defining features of the development of law in the period 1215-1381. This chapter examines the extent to which the professionalisation of the law inculcated and encouraged ways of thinking about the law and legal practice. It looks, first, at the provision of legal education and the growth of an intellectual domain and, secondly, at avenues of promotion or advancement within the profession and its sense of identity and collegiality. The chapter then investigates the relationship between the legal profession and the wider population, especially the position of judges and lawyers within society. The ethical behaviour and general conduct of members of the legal profession was the subject of deliberation and official scrutiny in the profession's early years. The chapter considers how 'popular' perceptions of judges and lawyers affected the development of the legal profession.

in Medieval law in context
Abstract only
Christine Carpenter

The best-explored sphere of gentry religion is charitable donations. The pattern of donations closely mirrored the position of a family within the hierarchy of gentility, for the greater gentry, having more widespread lands, generally distributed their generosity over a wider geographical area. Very minor gentry would have to accept lesser, and less permanent, means of commemoration, like a finite number of masses, obits, or the donation of an altar light, vestment or furnishing. An exploration of the language used in the fifteenth-century gentry correspondences would offer valuable evidence of the true meaning of religion to the mass of the gentry, not just on their deathbeds but in the course of their daily lives. All gentry men and women were well enough educated in the faith to express their own personal preferences in religion and develop their own favourite saints and rituals.

in Gentry culture in late-medieval England
Anthony Musson

The emergence of parliament as an important forum for legal and political matters was a significant feature of the period 1215-1381. Parliament provided a focal point where views were expressed on issues of constitutional import connected to the Crown's jurisdiction and the nature of royal governance, on problems of law and order and on issues within a judicial context. This chapter considers the judicial importance of parliament, which lay in its role as a forum for petitions, as a court of appeal, as a tribunal for the resolution of difficult cases and as a venue for state trials. Assessing the extent and impact of the legal expertise among parliament's constituent members, it is argued that those with legal knowhow and parliamentary experience played an important part in consultative exercises and in the passage of statute legislation at every juncture. The chapter looks at the interaction between local and national legislation.

in Medieval law in context
Anthony Musson

Law is seen to be a vehicle for royal jurisdiction and royal propaganda as well as providing the catalyst and underlying reason for civil disobedience and popular complaint. This chapter shows the necessity of examining the workings of the mind and the psychological elements of law as a means of identifying the dynamic role of legal consciousness in the prevailing political culture. By emphasising the contexts in which law operated and the ways in which it was represented and understood, it is possible to gain an insight into how law had the capacity to form, affect and direct political attitudes during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The complexity of the medieval experience of law should be seen as a key component in the growth of legal consciousness. The chapter also presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in this book.

in Medieval law in context
Phillipp R. Schofield

This chapter considers the ways in which discussion of certain important aspects of peasant society in medieval England, for instance the transfer of land, are sometimes examined by historians as explicable in terms of their significance for society and community. It identifies four main historical approaches which, with differing motives, have explored the nature, and changing nature, of the medieval village community and the durability of the bonds which sustained it. These are institutionalists, social structuralists, Marxists, and individualists. Institutionalists are those historians, such as Helen M. Cam, who have emphasised the importance of legal and quasi-legal structures in defining the village community. Social structuralists have tended to define the village community according to the activities of its constituents, and especially in terms of co-operation. Individualists, an approach associated with Alan Macfarlane but one that also admits a nuanced discussion of individual enterprise and entrepreneurship.

in Peasants and historians
Abstract only
Thomas Tolley

The visual arts played a part in providing the gentry with an identity. In England, unlike in some Continental countries, there existed strong suspicions of the value of visual creativity, which arguably inhibited the development of a system of artistic patronage based on mutual respect between artist and patron. Since Dominicans frequently acted as spiritual advisers to prominent gentry the philosophy played a part in interpreting their visual experiences as well. The concern gentry showed with positioning their tombs is as informative in assessing their visual alertness as their instructions for design and materials. As the more prosperous merchants were permitted to adopt the trappings of the gentry, it may be argued that a change took place in attitudes to visual culture. From the survey of late medieval visual culture it should be clear that issues of identity and appearance were fundamental for the English gentry.

in Gentry culture in late-medieval England