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Political Society in Later Medieval England

Political Society in Later Medieval England: A Festschrift for Christine Carpenter

Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Political Society in Later Medieval England
    Book Description:

    Christine Carpenter's influential work on late-medieval English society aspires to encompass a wide spectrum of human experience. Her vision of "total" history embeds the study of politics in a multi-dimensional social framework which ranges from mentalities and ideology to economy and geography. This collection of essays celebrates Professor Carpenter's achievement by drawing attention to the social underpinning of political culture; the articles reflect the range of her interests, chronologically from the thirteenth century to the sixteenth, and thematically from ideology and culture, through government and its officials, the nobility, gentry and yeomanry, the law and the church, to local society. The connection between centre and locality pervades the volume, as does the interplay of the ideological and cultural with the practical and material. The essays highlight both how ideas were moulded in political debate and action, and how their roots sprang from social pressures and interests. It also emphasises the wider cultural aspects of topics too-easily conceived as local and material. Benjamin Thompson is Fellow and Tutor in History at Somerville College, Oxford; John Watts is Professor of Later Medieval History at the University of Oxford and Fellow and Tutor of Corpus Christi College, Oxford. Contributors: Jackson Armstrong, Caroline Burt, Tony Moore, Richard Partington, Ted Powell, Andrea Ruddick, Andrew Spencer, Benjamin Thompson, John Watts, Theron Westervelt, Jenny Wormald.

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-514-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Contributors
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    Among the various developments in the study of political and constitutional history in twentieth-century Britain, perhaps the most important has been the adoption of a social approach, a way of thinking about power and political negotiation that acknowledges the implication of these things in social structure and practice.¹ Already perceptible in the work of the great nineteenth-century constitutional historians, and taken onward by the most perceptive of their successors in the early twentieth century (notably Maitland), the notion that politics, together with government and other institutions of power, must be understood as expressions of society gained ground from the 1920s...

  7. Appreciations
    (pp. 9-14)

    When I arrived at university, I knew – with all the unblinking certainty only an eighteen-year-old can muster – that I was a Tudor historian. Yes, I had more than a passing interest in the middle ages, but it was the Tudors who had fired my imagination ever since I was tiny. It didn’t matter that I was hardly the first or last person to say that; what mattered was that I would seize every opportunity Cambridge offered to immerse myself in the world of the sixteenth century.

    By the end of that year, all historical confidence had deserted me....

  8. 1 ‘If I do you wrong, who will do you right?’ Justice and Politics During the Personal Rule of Henry III
    (pp. 15-37)

    One of Christine Carpenter’s many contributions to medieval historiography has been to encourage the study of law as a social and political force.¹ The law was vital to landholders since it guaranteed their property rights and land was the essential basis of their social standing and political power. Legal sources are equally important for historians, providing ‘by far and away the best source for events in the localities’.² Although Carpenter cautions against the unsophisticated use of legal records, inLocality and Polityshe demonstrates how they can be employed to reconstruct local power structures and politics. Her work has also...

  9. 2 The Coronation Oath in English Politics, 1272–1399
    (pp. 38-54)

    On 20 February 1547 a nine-year-old boy was crowned king of England in Westminster Abbey. Like all kings before him, stretching back to Edgar in 973, Edward VI took the coronation oath administered by the archbishop of Canterbury.¹ But this was no ordinary king and no ordinary archbishop. Immediately after the ‘new Josiah’ took the oath, Archbishop Cranmer addressed his sovereign in the following terms:

    We, your majesty’s clergy, do humbly conceive that this promise reacheth not at your highness’ sword, spiritual or temporal, or in the least at your highness’ swaying the sceptre of this your dominion… The solemn...

  10. 3 Local Government in Warwickshire and Worcestershire under Edward II
    (pp. 55-73)

    In the mid-twentieth century, K. B. McFarlane dramatically revised our understanding of the late-medieval nobility and its interaction with the king, arguing that, for the most part, the relationship between them was mutually symbiotic, and focused around the provision of stability and order in the localities.¹ McFarlane’s many followers have studied both individual members of the nobility and local society in general. The most comprehensive study to have come in McFarlane’s wake remains Christine Carpenter’s magisterialLocality and Polity, published in 1992. In this book, Carpenter both dissected local society in fifteenth-century Warwickshire and examined the magnates whose affinities played...

  11. 4 The Nature of Noble Service to Edward III
    (pp. 74-92)

    According to K. B. McFarlane, ‘the real politics’ of the reign of Edward III ‘were inherent in Edward’s daily personal relations with his magnates. The king’s service was profitable; his favour the only sure road to honour and success; men went to court and to the royal camp … for what they could get. Under a ruler who knew his job they were amply rewarded.’¹ Today McFarlane’s perspective on noble motivation remains fundamental to our understanding of Edward III’s rule. Equally critical is May McKisack’s game-changing 1960 article ‘Edward III and the Historians’.² Inspired by McFarlane, McKisack dismissed the Whig...

  12. 5 Local Politics and Ecclesiastical Patronage in Gentry Letters
    (pp. 93-112)

    The fifteenth-century English gentry have been characterised in different ways by historians in respect of their religion: as anti-clerical harbingers of the Reformation, as orthodox, integrated members of the parish community, and as increasingly privatised individualists pursuing their own self-centred brand of piety.² Christine Carpenter’s work has stood apart from these historiographical (and often confessional) fault-lines and has examined gentry religion in its social and political context, while still taking seriously the inner beliefs behind its outward manifestations. In particular, she has shown how the late-medieval gentry achieved ‘a highly satisfactory reconciliation of the demands of this world and the...

  13. 6 Locality and Ecclesiastical Polity: The Late Medieval Church between Duality and Integration
    (pp. 113-145)

    Both the title and the monumental nature ofLocality and Polity, built as it was on a mass of local detail, might suggest that its essential contribution was to demonstrate, more fully and satisfactorily than before or since, how study of the localities underpinned understanding of English politics at the centre. Certainly it did that; but there was another axis, perhaps less well advertised, which informed Christine Carpenter’s work at its most fundamental level, that between the material and cultural. Again, the vast scale of her card index might suggest that the material was to the fore, in a project...

  14. 7 Concepts of Kinship in Lancastrian Westmorland
    (pp. 146-165)

    Decades of fruitful scholarship by social and economic historians notwithstanding,³ the precise opportunity identified by C. L. Kingsford has nowhere been more thoroughly taken up than in the work of Christine Carpenter. Where ‘chronicles’ might fail to supply a political narrative for interrogation, the potential for reconstruction of political society, and of the mental frameworks that shaped its members’ behaviour, is realised in the approach to the late-medieval past that she has championed. In such a way the third chapter ofLocality and Polity, which asks ‘who were the gentry’ of fifteenth-century Warwickshire and, by extension, of England, is remarkable...

  15. 8 Body Politic and Body Corporate in the Fifteenth Century: the Case of the Duchy of Lancaster
    (pp. 166-183)

    One of the fundamental elements of Christine Carpenter’s work, and a theme that weaves its way through the pages ofLocality and Polity, is ‘the intermingling of private and public’ in fifteenth-century England. On the one hand, ‘commentators on the late medieval body politic stress precisely that quality implied in this corporeal metaphor: the oneness, the unity that is greater than the sum of its parts’. On the other, ‘there is scarcely a governmental measure that can be assumed to be determined by disinterested bureaucratic procedure’.¹ The history of the Duchy of Lancaster in the fifteenth century provides one of...

  16. 9 Manifestoes for Rebellion in Late-Fifteenth-Century England
    (pp. 184-198)

    Our understanding of the second half of the fifteenth century has been informed greatly by the plethora of surviving political manifestoes from that period. These manifestoes, laying out arguments, pleas, appeals and justifications for the actions being undertaken by various political actors of the time, are a wonderful source of primary evidence on political actions written by some of the key actors themselves. The benefit these manifestoes provide in understanding both the particular circumstances which they addressed and the political environment and culture in which they existed has proven extremely valuable in improving our understanding of this era. Close analysis...

  17. 10 ‘New Men’, ‘New Learning’ and ‘New Monarchy’: Personnel and Policy in Royal Government, 1461–1529
    (pp. 199-228)

    In a piquant aside in his propitiatory treatise,The Tree of Commonwealth, Edmund Dudley remarked on the want of ‘lerninge of vertue and conning’ among the chivalrous classes of England, adding that this was the reason why ‘childeren of poore men and meane folke’ were promoted to high office.² How, if at all, Dudley meant these words to bear upon himself is not clear: although he is to us the very epitome of a legally trained and low-born evil councillor, he was actually a Sussex gentleman, the grandson of a baron in a cadet line and the nephew of a...

  18. 11 How Different It Was in Scotland: Three Earls, a Football and a Ghost Story
    (pp. 229-244)

    Here is the ghost story.¹

    On Saturday 20 October 1576 George Gordon, fifth earl of Huntly, a man probably in his early forties, ‘died suddenly’, as his most recent biographer somewhat primly tells us, ‘of over-exertion in a game of football’.² This rather anticlimactic ending to a lively and informative article does not quite do justice to that end, but may be excusable, as modern scholars do not actually know the cause of death; another guess has been apoplexy. Fortunately we can do rather better, thanks to a contemporary account which is wholly uninterested in historical caution. Sadly we do...

  19. A Bibliography of the Major Writings of Christine Carpenter, to 2015
    (pp. 245-248)
  20. Index
    (pp. 249-266)
  21. Tabula Gratulatoria
    (pp. 267-268)
  22. Back Matter
    (pp. 269-269)