Immigrant England, 1300–1550 provides a comprehensive account of the identities, nationalities, occupations, families and experiences of first-generation immigrants to England during the later Middle Ages. It addresses both official policy and public responses to immigration in the age of the Black Death, the Hundred Years War and the early Tudor monarchy, revealing how dramatic changes in the English economy fundamentally affected the levels of tolerance and discrimination allowed to immigrants.

Drawing on data unique in Europe before the nineteenth century, the book provides both a quantitative analysis of immigrants and a qualitative assessment of the reception that these incomers received from English society at large. Accounting for 1 per cent or more of the population of England in the fifteenth century and coming from all parts of Europe and beyond, immigrants spread out over the kingdom, settling in the countryside as well as in towns, and in a multitude of occupations from agricultural labourers to skilled craftspeople and professionals. Often encouraged and welcomed, sometimes vilified and victimised, immigrants were always on the social and political agenda in late medieval England.

Mark Ormrod, Bart Lambert and Jonathan Mackman

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.

in Immigrant England, 1300–1550
Mark Ormrod, Bart Lambert and Jonathan Mackman

Chapter 7, which is twinned with chapter 6, continues the analysis of the economic function of immigrants to England. It observes and analyses the presence of alien clergy within the kingdom, before going on to assess the evidence for the presence of aliens as established rural farmers. The main focus of the chapter is then on those usually classified in the records as ‘servants’ – a label that can cover a wide variety of functions (and social meanings), but which most often in this context denotes a temporary or permanent employee in the manufacturing, retailing or agricultural economies. The chapter concludes with a sustained discussion of whether alien women can be said to have participated in the so-called ‘golden age of women’ in the later Middle Ages, by enjoying the greater independence and prosperity that were experienced by at least some of their English-born counterparts. The chapter concludes that the position of alien women was a vulnerable one, and that it is highly doubtful that they enjoyed sufficient status or commanded sufficient reward for their labours to make them obvious beneficiaries of the wider redistribution of incomes with which chapter 6 began.

in Immigrant England, 1300–1550
Mark Ormrod, Bart Lambert and Jonathan Mackman

Chapter 5 is the second of the two chapters that focus on the ‘national’ identities of immigrants to later medieval England as evidenced by contemporary governmental records. It identifies five groups: the French (who were often identified and subdivided by region as the Bretons, the Normans, the Gascons, etc.); the ‘Dutch’ (a catch-all term to describe people from the Low Countries and the area covered by modern Germany); Scandinavians and Icelanders; the Italians; the Iberians; and the ‘Greeks’ (a term used to describe a variety of people from the eastern Mediterranean). The French and the ‘Dutch’ appeared in comparatively large numbers in England, while those from the Mediterranean, though much fewer in number, were often socially and economically prominent. The chapter considers the impact of the Hundred Years War on patterns of migration between France and England. It also discusses the consequences of Ottoman advance in the eastern Mediterranean as a contributing factor to the migration of ‘Greeks’ into England in the later fifteenth century.

in Immigrant England, 1300–1550
Abstract only
Mark Ormrod, Bart Lambert and Jonathan Mackman

Chapter 9 is the first of two chapters that consider the cultural aspects of the topic of immigration to later medieval England. It eschews the language of ‘assimilation’ and instead considers degrees of acculturation, stressing not only that the lives of immigrants were altered by the process of movement but that English culture (and ‘Englishness’ itself) were influenced and changed by the immigrant presence. After reviewing contemporary understandings of national characteristics, and the various (and often derogatory) stereotypes that the English used for their European neighbours, it considers those who effectively changed nationality (whether through denization or through other means) in the given period and whether their change of status can be seen to have been an affective, or merely a pragmatic, process. The chapter then proceeds to consider the internationalism of the royal court and its patronage of alien writers, musicians and artists. Next, it considers the role of language and the methods by which immigrants acquired various degrees of understanding of the English vernacular. Finally, the chapter reviews the evidence of immigrants’ personal names as represented in English government records and considers what these can tell us about the perpetuation or loss of ‘foreign’ identities.

in Immigrant England, 1300–1550
Abstract only
Nationalism, racism and xenophobia
Mark Ormrod, Bart Lambert and Jonathan Mackman

The conclusion to the book briefly draws together the strands of discussion of previous chapters and addresses the wider question of English attitudes to foreigners in general, and immigrants in particular, between 1300 and 1550. While there is good evidence to suggest that England became more nationalistic across this period, and more isolationalist in its expression of that nationalism, it is notable that the English continued to regard themselves as the descendants of many different ethnicities and did not develop a notion of their own ‘racial purity’. This also means that racism (towards religious and racial minorities) and xenophobia (towards foreign ethnicities at large), although often openly discussed in England, were very rarely institutionalised in the policies of parliament and monarchy. Immigrants became English; but English people, too, were changed by the presence of immigrants.

in Immigrant England, 1300–1550
Abstract only
Immigrant England
Mark Ormrod, Bart Lambert and Jonathan Mackman

The chapter notes the neglect of the period 1300–1550 in the study of migration to England, and the reasons for this neglect. It sets out the political, military, social and economic conditions of England and or continental Europe in the period as background to the various ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors that caused people to move to England. It examines the medieval and modern vocabulary of migration, and especially the words ‘alien’, ‘foreigner’, ‘stranger’ and ‘immigrant’.

in Immigrant England, 1300–1550
Mark Ormrod, Bart Lambert and Jonathan Mackman

The chapter provides a detailed introduction to the so-called ‘alien subsidies’, the taxes imposed on foreign-born people living in England between 1440 and 1487, and whose records form the main evidential basis for the book. It addresses the residency requirements for most of the taxes in question, and then explains the various categories of foreigner who were liable, and exempt, from these taxes. After assessing the possible level of default, it moves on to address how the data arising from these records can be used to reconstruct a statistical profile of the alien population of England in 1440 (the year for which the records are strongest), and posits a figure of 30,000 men, women and children as first-generation immigrants: that is, between 1 and 1.5 per cent of a total population of between 2 and 2.5 million. After considering whether there was any significant emigration from England, and how this might have affected what modern governments call ‘net migration’, the chapter concludes with a detailed analysis of the geographical distribution of the alien population. It notes that, although there were undoubtedly concentrations of aliens in some of the larger towns of England, foreigners were found in all parts of the realm, spread widely and thinly over small towns and rural areas as well. This analysis is facilitated by tables and maps.

in Immigrant England, 1300–1550
Mark Ormrod, Bart Lambert and Jonathan Mackman

Chapter 4 is the first of two chapters that deal with immigrants to England under the various ‘national’ labels that were ascribed to them by the English crown and its agents. It assesses the numbers, social profile and geographical distribution of Welsh, Irish, ‘Islander’ and Scottish immigrants to England. The data for the Welsh is poor; although it seems likely that the highest concentrations of Welsh migrants settled close to the Welsh border in the English West Midlands and South-West, there is some evidence for Welsh settlement further afield, too. The Irish evidence is stronger, and reveals that a significant proportion of Irish migrants to England may have been skilled and prosperous people who made targeted decisions about the optimal places to settle. The ‘Islanders’ were people from the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and the Orkney Islands (the latter being treated separately from Scotland because, at the time, they were still under the jurisdiction of the king of Norway). They appear in small numbers. Finally, the evidence for the Scots presence in England is the strongest of all, and reveals significant numbers of Scots migrating across the border into the northern counties of England, many of them transient agricultural workers but some of them being higher-status individuals such as merchants and members of the clergy. These higher-status Scots also settled more generally around England, and were a recognised presence in the South and East.

in Immigrant England, 1300–1550
Mark Ormrod, Bart Lambert and Jonathan Mackman

Chapter 8 addresses the evidence for the presence of people from religious and racial minorities in England between 1300 and 1550. While stressing that the numbers of people who can be thus identified remains very small, it urges a corrective to the body of scholarship that supposes the general absence of minorities (including black people and Muslim people) in England before the middle of the sixteenth century. The chapter includes an assessment of the 1290 expulsion of the Jews from England and the wider impact of this measure on attitudes to minorities in the centuries that followed, before going on to identify examples of ‘Saracens’, ‘Moors’ and people of ‘Inde’ in the English records of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The chapter concludes with a reassessment of the supposedly racist tendencies of sixteenth-century English governments and provides a case study of the ‘mass denization’ of French people resident in England (and some others) during the reign of Henry VIII.

in Immigrant England, 1300–1550