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Liberties and Identities in the Medieval British Isles

Liberties and Identities in the Medieval British Isles

Volume: 10
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Liberties and Identities in the Medieval British Isles
    Book Description:

    The liberties and franchises of medieval England have been a neglected area of study in recent years, yet they were an important aspect of government and society, providing an influential basis of collective awareness, aspiration and loyalty. The papers in this volume examine them in a wide British context (the north of England, the Welsh march, Ireland and Scotland), from the twelfth to the sixteenth centuries, looking at the varied role that liberties played in defining local identities and providing bases of power; other topics addressed include their maintenance of law and order, as well as the threat they might present, and their part in military recruitment. Contributors: MELANIE DEVINE, CLARE ETTY, SANDY GRANT, BETH HARTLAND, MATT HOLFORD, MAX LIEBERMAN, CYNTHIA NEVILLE, MICHAEL PRESTWICH, KEITH STRINGER, HENRY SUMMERSON

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-654-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of maps
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    This volume is the product of a colloquium held at the University of Durham, as part of a research project on the liberties of north-east England in the medieval period. The project was generously funded by the Leverhulme Trust, whose assistance is gratefully acknowledged. The aim of the colloquium was to bring together scholars working in a British, rather than purely English, context, and to provide a wide perspective on the complex issues of the liberties and franchises that were such a significant part of the political, administrative and legal landscape of later medieval Britain.

    Liberties have received surprisingly little...

  6. 1 States, Liberties and Communities in Medieval Britain and Ireland (c.1100–1400)
    (pp. 5-36)

    The study of medieval England’s liberties, franchises, immunities or so-called ‘private’ jurisdictions has become less fashionable than used to be the case.¹ The investigations of Warren Ault, Helen Cam, Noel Denholm-Young, and Naomi Hurnard, from the 1920s to the 1950s, were supplemented and refined in a series of local studies by, among others, Geoffrey Barraclough, Robin Du Boulay, Constance Fraser, Edward Miller, and Jean Scammell. Generally such work paid scant attention to those now familiar themes ‘community’ and ‘identity’; it centred on institutional theory and practice; and it set the history of liberties firmly within a paradigm of assimilation into...

  7. 2 Arbitration and Anglo-Scottish Border Law in the Later Middle Ages
    (pp. 37-55)

    One of the defining characteristics of medieval liberties was their distinct status as geographically specific territories within which, as the jingle goes, the king’s writ did not run.¹ Some were very small, consisting of only a handful of hundreds; others, like Durham, approximated the size of entire counties.² Irrespective of their extent, however, all were also set apart, legally and conceptually, from the areas around them. This second, more fluid notion of liberties as spatially distinct sites forms the context for the study that follows, and the justification for treating the entire Anglo-Scottish border region as a de facto franchise....

  8. 3 Peacekeepers and Lawbreakers in Medieval Northumberland, c.1200–c.1500
    (pp. 56-76)

    This paper seeks to revisit the time-honoured assumption of the exceptional, even devoted, lawlessness of medieval Northumberland. Formidable difficulties hinder the work of scrutiny. The sources are rarely home-grown, mostly deriving from judicial visitations. Until the last decade of the thirteenth century these were primarily eyres, lengthy sessions which came at intervals of several years and entailed a wholesale review of the processes of law enforcement; after the 1290s eyres were mainly succeeded by gaol deliveries, clearances of gaols through trials of their inmates, usually conducted every one or two years. All were directed from Westminster and are recorded in...

  9. 4 War, Lordship, and Community in the Liberty of Norhamshire
    (pp. 77-97)

    The liberty of Norhamshire, on the Scottish border, was only one of the socalled ‘royal liberties’ of north-eastern England where, in the middle ages, the king’s writ did not run.¹ Together with Bedlingtonshire, around ten miles north of Newcastle, it was part of the liberty of Durham, the main body of which extended, as contemporaries put it, between the rivers Tyne and Tees, encompassing pre-1974 County Durham.² The other royal liberties of Tynedale and Hexhamshire collectively occupied a wide swathe of western and southern Northumberland; contiguous with these was the highly privileged franchise of Redesdale. In much of the region...

  10. 5 The Lordship of Richmond in the Later Middle Ages
    (pp. 98-110)

    Bastard feudalism was the focus of intense debate and scrutiny in the second half of the twentieth century.¹ The remnants of feudalism were looked upon as anachronistic and without significance. Although retainers were identified by K.B. McFarlane as unpredictable, changing their allegiance to secure more lucrative rewards or more advantageous positions, current research has established that they were more frequently found to be loyal and devoted servants to their respective lords.² The contracts drawn up as an essential feature of the process of retaining can now be seen as an integral part of a wider context of lordship, household structure,...

  11. 6 ‘Tam infra libertates quam extra’: Liberties and Military Recruitment
    (pp. 111-119)

    It is often said that the medieval state was concerned above all with two things, law and war.¹ In the history of law, liberties have a large place; the extent to which the English crown was prepared to devolve legal authority was remarkable. Half the hundreds at the end of the thirteenth century were in private hands. The powers of great liberty holders were very impressive, and many examples could be given. The greatest might combine freedom from both secular and religious authorities. At Bury St Edmunds, the abbot exercised all the authority that a sheriff would normally possess over...

  12. 7 Neighbours from Hell? Living with Tynedale and Redesdale, 1489–1547
    (pp. 120-140)

    In 1495, Henry VII abolished Tynedale’s liberty status and annexed it to the county of Northumberland.¹ Its inhabitants, often ‘allied with the Scots, the ancient enemies of this realm, have … committed and done, and still daily and nightly commit and do, great and dreadful murders, treasons, robberies, felonies, depredations, riots and other great offences upon the king our sovereign lord’s true and faithful liege people and subjects … within the counties of Northumberland, Cumberland and Westmorland, Hexhamshire, the bishopric of Durham and in a part of Yorkshire … [who] cannot be at all secure in their bodies or goods,...

  13. 8 Striving for Marcher Liberties: The Corbets of Caus in the Thirteenth Century
    (pp. 141-154)

    The frontier between Wales and the English county of Shropshire may seem an odd place to seek clues to the origins of Marcher liberties. The lordships established there lay on the frontier, along Offa’s Dyke, but they were peripheral to foreign-occupied Wales. The lordships of Oswestry, Caus and Clun all originated soon after 1066, but not as conquests of Welsh territory. Rather did they first take shape as compact honors created in the westernmost hundreds of Shropshire by Roger of Montgomery, the first earl of Shrewsbury (d.1094). To claim that these lordships bear on the history of Marcher liberties is...

  14. 9 Franchises North of the Border: Baronies and Regalities in Medieval Scotland
    (pp. 155-199)

    Scottish franchises¹ – especially the late medieval regalities, equivalent to English palatinates – have not had a good press from past historians. The common attitude is neatly caught in two statements from the 1950s: William Croft Dickinson (author of what is still the main institutional study of the subject)² declared in 1952 that in late medieval Scotland ‘franchisal privileges grew, flourished and were assumed unchecked’, while in 1958 Peter McIntyre wrote (in the standard Introduction to Scottish Legal History) that the lords of regality ‘used the privileges they wrested from the weak kings of 14th century Scotland to establish an...

  15. 10 The Liberties of Ireland in the Reign of Edward I
    (pp. 200-216)

    The Welsh March is the area most often cited as a point of comparison for conditions in the lordship of Ireland, but in the case of liberties the comparison cannot be extended far. The constitutional position of the great liberties of Ireland, created during the reign of Henry II, was much more clear-cut than that of the franchises of the Welsh March, established during the reign of Henry I:¹ in Ireland, liberties were held from the king; and it was not necessary for Edward I to extend quo warranto proceedings there simply in order to make this point clear.² Indeed,...

  16. Index
    (pp. 217-226)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 227-229)