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.
Definition of the term
‘Politicalculture’ is a rather nebulous concept, although Iain McLean’s Dictionary of Politics manages a reasonably crisp definition: ‘The attitudes, beliefs, and values which underpin the operation of a particular political system.’ These will include, he writes, ‘knowledge and skills’; ‘positive and negative emotional feelings’ towards the system of government; and ‘evaluative judgments’ about it (McLean, 1996, p. 379). Factors contributing towards these feelings, emotions, values and attitudes include historical experience, the
In the scholarship of Anglo-American relations, and it is very extensive, there is surprisingly little written about the politicalculture that the two countries might share. Perhaps this is because at first sight differences rather than commonalities appear to predominate, especially in the institutional sphere. Often claims are made that the United States is more libertarian, laissez-faire economically, socially conservative on the death penalty, abortion, the right to bear arms, health provision, and gay rights, and traditionally more right
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.