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.
true monarchy. As a rhetoric of protest rather than of political intent, this avoided sedition. Two principal conclusions thus emerged about politicalculture below the level of the literate political class: first, its ambivalence revealed a measure of sophistication and subtlety; and secondly, it nonetheless broadly connected with the issues of high politics. 24
Walker then turned to examine the retrospective view of the 1399 revolution in literate culture. The construction of the ‘social memory’ of a recent event was bound to be more artificial than the popular
the returning king, a ready means of disavowal in the face of reprisals. A detailed consideration of its provenance and chronology consequently provides a fruitful starting point for a study of the place and purpose of such potentially seditious rumours within the politicalculture of early Lancastrian England. Though the general outlines of the ‘false Richard’ episode have long been known to historians, and its interpretation is currently the subject of some debate, 14 the full extent of the Ricardian rumour has never been documented, while its place within the
about remembering, but also about the organisation of knowledge and the creation of what has been called a ‘formative’ past. These agreed versions of the past, emerging from the heterogeneity of collective memory, reveal much about the ways in which the groups that constructed them define and project themselves. One purpose of this essay will be to ask what the judgments passed on Richard II during the Lancastrian era reveal about the politicalculture that generated them.
Among medievalists, studies of the evolution of social memory have tended to concentrate on
of communication between centre and locality. This inevitably bred a responsive politicalculture, in which a relatively extensive ruling class possessed a vested interest in the political health and fiscal credit of the Crown, and the political leverage to make their views effective. Political awareness was widely disseminated and the issues at stake between the king and his opponents well understood; petitions and complaints to the king and council made frequent and generally accurate reference to the great reforming measures of 1215, 1258 and 1311. The
George Howell, the Webbs and the
politicalculture of early labour history
M alcolm Chase
George Howell (1833–1910) was the epitome of a nineteenth-century auto
didact, having received an indifferent education, largely part-time, that
ended when he was twelve. Successively a ploughboy, apprentice shoemaker and from the age of twenty-two a bricklayer, he doggedly built
a career in labour movement politics, first achieving public prominence
as Secretary of the London Trades’ Council in 1861–62. He established a
reputation as an exceptionally energetic
The palatinate of Lancaster provides a unique case in the study of 'bastard feudalism,' an opportunity to observe the operation of a lord's favor almost unrestrained by the exercise of royal power. This chapter examines the state of law and order in the palatinate of Lancaster under John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, in the light of the Commons' complaints. It seeks to assess the extent to which they were justified, and then use the conclusions derived from this local evidence to attempt a more general estimate of the nature and effects of 'bastard feudalism' in later medieval England. Intense competition and pressure for land, the ever-growing complexity of the law, the opportunities for manipulation and collusion, all seem more important causes of disorder than the deliberate lawlessness of the nobility. The palatinate should be ascribed to the endemic failure of medieval rulers to control their local agents.
Sir Richard Abberbury of Donnington and his son, also Sir Richard, play a minor but instructive part in the history of Richard II's reign. Sir Richard le filz became a well-established figure in English political life by the 1390s, known as an acute diplomat and a trusted servant of the duke of Lancaster. Sir Richard le filz did not turn the high position he had held in John of Gaunt's esteem to greater advantage after 1399, especially in view of the importance of old Lancastrian servants in Henry IV's establishment. Within twelve months of old Sir Richard's death, Richard II was deposed and dead; John of Gaunt was dead; his son, Henry of Derby, was King of England. The Abberburys' decline has less to do with 'unskillfulness' than with the scale of priorities by which the later medieval gentry conducted their lives.
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.
Between 1389 and 1413, the powers and composition of the commissions of the peace underwent a series of changes. This chapter examines the strength of these reservations against the evidence available for the membership and activity of the commissions of the peace in the three Ridings of Yorkshire during the majority rule of Richard II and the reign of Henry IV. It discusses the personnel of each of these categories and defines the part each played in the work of the Yorkshire justices of the peace. Among the general observations, the first concerns the respective attitudes of the rulers towards the self-regarding local sentiment embodied in the parliamentary Commons' aspirations to control the county bench. A second general observation concerns the opposition between central government and local autonomy, royal authority and gentry independence.