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From Chaucer’s representations of the Knight and the Squire in the General Prologue one might deduce that domestic politics and administration formed no part of the gentry’s existence. The Knight spends his time, when not on pilgrimage, fighting for Christendom in far-flung places; his son has also seen military service abroad, but pursues ‘courtly love’ with at least

in Gentry culture in late-medieval England

At one period two distinct tombs containing Esmiss Esmoor’s remains were reported.: one by the tannery, the other up near the goods station. Mr. McBryde visited them both and saw signs of the beginning of a cult – earthenware saucers and so on. Being an experienced official, he did nothing to irritate it, and after a week or so, the rash died down. ‘There’s propaganda behind all this,’ he said … 1 This paper is an investigation of the nature of political society in later medieval England, though the angle from which it approaches the question will be

in Political culture in later medieval England

Simon Walker studied modern history at Magdelen College, Oxford, graduating with first-class honours in 1979. When Walker began researching the retinue of John of Gaunt in 1980, 'bastard feudalism' had been the subject of debate for thirty-five years. A study of John of Gaunt's retinue could be expected to throw important, if not decisive, light on these problems. For not only was his the largest retinue in late medieval England, but for thirty years the duke himself had a dominant role in the domestic, military and diplomatic policy of England. In 1994, Michael Jones and Walker published for the Camden Society an edition of all the surviving private life indentures for peace and war apart from those of John of Gaunt and William, Lord Hastings. Walker's introduction to the volume reviewed the evolution of life indentures, the range of services they embraced, the regulation of obligations for service and reward, and the changing role of such indentures over the period 1278-1476. From these broad investigations into the balance of power between magnates and gentry, Walker returned to examine how, in individual cases, two men from different backgrounds built their careers on noble and royal patronage. Walker then turned to examine the retrospective view of the 1399 revolution in literate culture. He used case studies to build up a picture of collective mentalities among different social grades and vocational worlds, hoping ultimately to construct a new approach to the tensions and strength of the late medieval polity.

The body politics

period is found in the writings of the Cistercian abbot Isaac of Stella (d. late 1160s). Isaac’s writings provide an interesting parallel to those of John, as he was writing within a similar political and intellectual context. We know, for example, that Isaac also came from England to study in the schools of France, and he appears to have had some association with Thomas Becket, although the strength of this association is disputed. 10 The metaphor of the body was frequently used by Isaac in his sermon collection. In Sermon 34, Isaac emphasises the indivisibility of

in John of Salisbury and the medieval Roman renaissance
The judicial duel under the Angevin kings (mid–twelfth century to 1204)

these gladiators, demanded to be tried by their peers . . .’ Powicke recognised that an important point of principle was being asserted with the Poitevin barons’ refusal to fight in John’s court; but the interpretation which he placed on the Poitevins’ demand to be matched against their peers was anachronistic. He seems to have interpreted the acute political problems of the Angevin dynasty in 1201 from the viewpoint of John’s later conflicts with his English barons in 1215. 4 On the whole modern historians have rarely questioned the assumption that John’s plans for

in Law, laity and solidarities
King Athelstan’s sisters and Frankish queenship

one of its central themes, namely the significance of marital alliances between dynasties. Unfortunately the tenth-century West, our present concern, had no Cassiodorus (the recorder of the king’s letter) to methodically enlighten the intricacies of its politics, but Theoderic’s sentiments were doubtless not unlike those that crossed the minds of the Anglo-Saxon and Frankish elite families who

in Frankland
Charters as evidence

this collection: for what they reveal about the working of the law and about the collective action and solidarities, lay values and lay political theory in the study of which Susan Reynolds has been such a pioneer. She has encouraged us to use charters more creatively as a source, remarking that It is odd that historians . . . will not risk deducing attitudes and values about collectivities from charters, chronicles and laws. . . . 4 This essay will seek to respond to that encouragement. In comparison with earlier tenth-century English royal charters

in Law, laity and solidarities
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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. Beginning with the printing and analysis of indentures of retainer by N. B. Lewis, K. B. McFarlane and W. H. Dunham, controversy had centred on whether its mercenary character loosened feudal loyalties, encouraged lawlessness and corruption, and destabilised the polity to the point of civil war. As studies of individual retinues and the political structures of different counties began to appear in the 1970s, bastard

in Political culture in later medieval England

The ‘county community’ in later medieval England enjoyed a brief but influential vogue during the 1980s, lasting roughly from Nigel Saul’s Knights and Esquires (published in 1981), a study of the Gloucestershire gentry in the fourteenth century, to Simon Payling’s Political Society in Lancastrian England (published in 1991), a study (despite its title) of the Nottinghamshire gentry in the first half of the fifteenth. This vogue was partly the consequence of a kind of intellectual overspill from the early modern period, then suffering from a glut of such

in Political culture in later medieval England

sea, because of their lack of stability’. 2 When Philippe de Commynes attributed the troubles of Henry VI’s reign to an excess of natural aggression on the part of his subjects, he was only the most articulate in a long line of French commentators on the violence and uncertainty of English political life. What most impressed them was the unfortunate fate of so many English kings. The Chancellor of France informed the Estates-General in 1484 that the English had suffered twenty-six changes of dynasty since the foundation of their monarchy, 3 and there were

in Political culture in later medieval England