Gentry and Community in Medieval England

by Christine Carpenter
Gentry and Community in Medieval England
Christine Carpenter
The Journal of British Studies
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Gentry and Community
in Medieval England

Christine Carpenter

There is now a strong case for banning the word "community" from all academic writing and an even stronger one for banning it from the vocabulary of politics. As one early modern historian has put it, the word is becoming a "shibboleth."' It is employed where "group" or "society," for example, would be more appropriate, and, worst of all, its use is often not just a matter of slack thought but expresses an implicit hankering for some mythical past when there were "communi- ties." The increasing overworking of the word by politicians and other public figures can be related to an uneasy feeling that the sense of belonging and of mutual obligation implicit in the idea of "community" are disappearing. Accordingly, if they call things "communities" often enough, that will somehow create them. This prelapsarian attitude to communities is, as we shall see, quite as fundamental to historical use

CHRISTINE is a fellow of New Hall and lecturer in history at Cambridge

CARPENTER University. The author would like to thank Dr. Richard Smith of All Souls College, Oxford, and Dr. Dnvid Postles of the University of Leicester for bibliographical advice on communities and networks in modern theory and Dr. Benjamin Thompson of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, for commenting on this article in draft form; none of them is responsible for any errors. The computer project used in the latter part of this article was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) of Great Britain. The author owes an incalculable debt to her research assistant on this project, Miss Francesca Bumpus, now at Aberystwyth, University of Wales, who devised the program and entered the data. She in turn would like to acknowledge her special debt to Dr. Kevin Schurer of Wolfson College, Cambridge, and to thank Dr. Peter Denley of Queen Mary and Westfield College, London, and Mr. J. E. Oeppen of the ESRC-funded Cam- bridge Population Group.

' C. Holmes, Seventeenth-Century Lincol/zshire, History of Lincolnshire, no. 7 (Lincoln, 1980), p. 3. See also B. Short, "Images and Realities in the English Rural Community," in his The English Rurul Community: Imrrge rind Anrrlysis (Cambridge, 1992), pp. 1-18, and "The Evolution of Contrasting Communities within Rural En- gland," in ibid., pp. 19-43, where the eminently "correct" language of power and attacks on the myth of the countryside contrast with the uncritical acceptance of the supremely mythical "community."

Journal of Briti~h St~~dies

33 (October 1994): 340-380 G 1994 by The North American Conference on British Studies All rights reserved. 0021-937119413304-0002501.00

of the term. It is the purpose of this article to examine critically how the word has been applied in relation to the medieval English gentry, to ask whether there can be any legitimate use in this context, and to look at the types of identity, whether communitarian or not, that may have obtained among this important group within medieval society.

Historiographically, the "gentry community," as is well-known, first appeared in the seventeenth century, specifically in the work of Alan Everitt. It was an article of faith with him that the "county com- munity" was the proper vehicle for studies of the gentry, because "the England of 1640 resembled a union of partially independent county states or communities, each with its own distinct ethos and 10yalty."~ The approach and the belief that underlay it created a framework for local studies which persisted when they moved backward chronologi- cally, first into the sixteenth century and then into the later Middle Ages and more latterly into the thirteenth century.' This is as far back as full-scale studies of lesser landowners have so far gone, and it is certainly the earliest that one can refer to them as "gentry" rather than knight^.^ Although there is now some doubt among seventeenth- century historians of the usefulness of the county community as an analytical tool, with one notable exception there is still a feeling that it cannot be dispensed with, and it is certainly one that has been ac- cepted by most of the medievalists in the field.' It is convenient twice

'A. Everitt, The Community of Kent and the Great Rebellion, 1640-60 (1966; 2d impression, Leicester, 1973), p. 13, Change in the Provinces: The Seventeenth Century, Department of Local History, Occasional paper, 2d ser., 1 (Leicester, 1969); Holmes, Lincolnshire. pp. 1-2.

For example, A, Fletcher, A County Cornmunity in Peace and War: Sussex, 16001660 (London, 1975): D. Underdown. Somerset in the Civil War and Interregnun1 (Newton Abbot, 1973), pp. 16, 20; J. S. Morrill, Cheshire, 1630-1660: County Government and Society during the English Revolution (Oxford. 1974), pp. 330, 332-33: A. Hassell Smith. County and Corrrt: Government and Politics in Norfolk, 1558-1603 (Oxford. 1974). pp. 108-9: D. MacCulloch. Suffolk and the Tudors: Politics and Religion in an English County, 1500-1600 (Oxford, 1986). The first wave of county studies is synthe- sized in the now classic work by J. S. Morrill, The Revolt of the Provinces: Conserva- tives and Radicals in the English Civil War, 1630-1650, 2d ed. (London, 1980).

P. Coss, Lordship, Knighthood and Locality: A Study in Eng/iJh Society, c.1180-c.1280 (Cambridge, 1991), calls his work "an inquiry . . . into [the] pre-history" of the English gentry (p. 2).

'Even Everitt has expressed doubts (A. Everitt, "Country, County and Town: Patterns of Regional Evolution in England." Transactions of the Royal Historical Soci- ety, 5th ser.. 29 [1979]: 88-91). For doubters who ultimately accept the framework. see MacCulloch, Suffolk and the Tudors, esp. pt. 1; Holmes, Lincolnshire, pp. 3-4. "The County Community in Stuart Historiography," Jo~irnal of British Studies 19 (1980): 54-73; P. Williams, "The Crown and the Counties," in The Reign of Elizabeth, ed.

C. Haigh (L,ondon, 1984). p. 137 (and note that all his alternative identities are conceived in governmental terms); A. Fletcher, "National and Local Awareness in the County

over. First, it offers justification for the easy way of doing local history, since governmental records are arranged by county and sifting through them is much quicker if one can confine oneself to a single county. Second, it provides a straightforward interpretation of English history, in which the gentry learn to dominate local society through the county in the late Middle Ages, acquire a more mature sense of county identity under the Tudors, and are then ready to take on both crown and par- liament in defense of the county's independence in the following century.6

In fact, right from its inception, the concept of the county commu- nity was riddled with theoretical confusion which has barely been ad- dressed since.' It has its origins in theories of anthropology and sociol- ogy which held that "community" was a primitive, preindustrial form of social organization which then broke down into a broader-based "society." These ideas were closely related to the "structuralfunctionalist" anthropological school, which saw in these communi-

Conlmunities," in Before the English Civil War: Essays on Early Stuart Politics and Government, ed. H. Tomlinson (London, 1983), pp. 151-74. The exception is Ann Hughes: "Warwickshire on the Eve of the Civil War: A 'County Community'?" Midland History 7 (1982): 42-72, Politics, Society and Civil War in Warwickshire, 1620-1660 (Cambridge, 1987), passim, and "Local History and the Origins of the Civil War," in Conflict in Early Stuart England, ed. R. Cust and A. Hughes (London, 1989), pp. 224-53. Medieval studies that assume the existence of county conlmunities include N. Saul, Knights and Esquires: The Gloucestershire Gentry in the Fourteenth Century (Oxford, 1981), esp, pp. 258-62; M. J. Bennett, Community, Class and Careerism: Cheshire and Lancashire Society in the Age of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Cambridge, 1983), chap. 2; S. J. Payling, Political Society in Lancastrian England: The Greater Gentry of Nottinghamshire (Oxford, 1991), esp. pp. 217-18; E. Acheson, A Gentry Community: Leicestershire in the Fifteenth Century, c.1422-c.1485 (Cambridge, 1992), esp. chap. 4 and p. 202. C. Moreton, Tlze Townslzends and Their World: Gentry, Law, and Land in Norfolk, c.1450-1551 (Oxford, 1992), is critical of the "county community" but sub- scribes to early modern localism (pp. 49, 80-81, 195-96). S. Wright, The Derbyshire Gentry in tlze Fifteentlz Century, Derbyshire Record Society Publications, no. 8 (Chester- field, 1983), is the most sophisticated (e.g., pp. 58-59, 146-47) but still accepts the idea of "county gentry" (p. 11). A recent dissenter is A. J. Pollard, North-Eastern England during the Wars of the Roses: Lay Society, War, and Politics, 1450-1500 (Oxford, 1990), esp. pp. 6, 153-54. For a survey of the "county community" in both periods, see R. Virgoe, "Aspects of the County Community in the Fifteenth Century," in Profit, Piety and the Professions in Late Medieval England, ed. M. A. Hicks (Gioucester, 1990), pp. 1-4. On medievalists' enthusiasm for the term "community" generally, see M. Rubin, "Small Groups: Identity and Solidarity in the Late Middle Ages," in Enterprise and Individuals in Fifteenth-Century England, ed. J. Kermode (Stroud, 1991), pp. 132-35.

Wright, Derbyshire, p. 1; S. J. Gunn, review of Locality and Polity, by C. Carpen- ter, Historical Journal 35 (1992): 999.

'But see the shrewd observations in D. H. Sacks, "The Corporate Town and the English State: Bristol's 'Little Businesses,' 1625-1641," Past and Present, no. 110 (1986), pp. 70-74, cited in Hughes, "Local History," p. 225.

ties, when they studied them in the underdeveloped world, harmonious social organisms, free from conflict, from history, and from links with the outside world. The first difficulty is therefore that the concept assumes a "face-to-face community" and, normally, one that is iso- lated and has clearly defined borders, both geographical and so~ial.~ It may therefore be suitable as an analytical tool for the study of a medieval village9 but can hardly be applied to a whole county without some considerable thought about adaptation. The "Leicester school" of local history, to which Everitt belonged, pioneered the use of the term in English history, initially with respect to rather smaller commu- nities, before Everitt himself applied it to the seventeenth-century county, but it has never addressed the theoretical implications of the word. Insofar as these proponents of the historical community thought in theoretical terms, they seem to have been fully paid-up structural- functionalists, very keen on organic unity. Arguably, an uneasy sense that the concept was being misapplied when it came to the county lies behind the heavy emphasis placed on cozy parochialism by Everitt and some of his followers, as if the county was indeed no more than the village writ large.'' To the medievalist, coming from a society

H. S. Maine, Village Communities in the East and West (London, 1871); R. M. Smith, "'Modernization' and the Corporate Medieval Village Community in England: Some Sceptical Reflections," in Explorations in Historical Geography, ed. A. R. H. Baker and D. Gregory (Cambridge, 1984), pp. 146-56; S. Wright, "Image and Analysis: New Directions in Community Studies," in Short, ed., English Rural Community, pp. 201-3; A. P. Cohen, The Symbolic Construction of Community (Chichester and London, 1985), pp. 22-25; A. Macfarlane, "History, Anthropology and the Study of Communi- ties," Social History 5 (May 1977): 631, 634-35; J. W. Burrow, "'The Village Commu- nity' and the Uses of History in Late Nineteenth-Century England," in Historical Per- spectives in English Thought and Society: In Honour ofJack Plumb, ed. N. McKendrick (London, 1974), pp. 255-84; P. G. Mewett, "Associational Categories and the Social Location of Relationships in a Lewis Crofting Community," in Belonging: Identity and Social Organisation in British Rural Cultures, ed. A. P. Cohen (Manchester, 1982), p. 102; Rubin, "Small Groups," pp. 131-34.

In fact, as has been well-known for a long time, the medieval English village was not isolated: the best summary is Smith, "'Modernization,' " pp. 140-79.

'O H. P. R. Finberg. "The Local Historian and His Theme," in Local History: Objective and Pursuit, ed. H. P. R. Finberg and V. H. Skipp (Newton Abbot, 1967), pp. 5-10, "Local History," in ibid.. pp. 32-33 (note especially in this last reference: "for historical purposes the idea need not perplex us"); A. Everitt, New Avenues in English Local History (Leicester, 1970), p. 6, Change in the Provinces, p. 14; L. Stone, "English and United States Local History," in Historical Studies Today, ed. F. Gilbert and S. R. Graubard (New York, 1972), p. 317; Holmes, Lincolnshire, p. 4; Sacks, "Corporate Town," pp. 70, 72; Williams, "Crown and Counties," pp. 137-38; Fletcher, "National and Local Awareness," p. 151; R. Cust and A. Hughes, "Introduction: After Revisionism," in Cust and Hughes, eds., Conflict in Early Stuart England, p. 5; Hughes, "Local History," in ibid., pp. 225-27; and references cited in n. 3 above.

known to be already highly centralized at the landowning level, and even at the village level, these assertions about the parochialism of England two hundred and more years later seem exceedingly odd."

Subsequent work in the social sciences has both mitigated and increased the difficulties in using the word "community" for a county. First, the crudity of the original distinction between community and society has been recognized, amid a sustained attack on the "struc- tural-functionalist" approach to the social sciences.I2 It is recognized that the paradigmatic community probably never existed and that it is possible for communities to exist outside an enclosed environment. This is of course entirely helpful to the notion of the county commu- nity, but it brings in its train more considerable difficulties. Social scientists are now talking about communities of the mind rather than of the neighborhood and communities that transcend the neighbor- hood.13 A moment's thought confirms that, if the term is to have any use at all, either localized or not, it must entail before all else a sense of belonging. But, if the gentry world went well beyond the village, where did it end and how are we to locate the boundaries to their mental world? It is an open-ended problem. Given that the word was being used in gentry studies in a fairly nebulous, at times mystical, manner anyway, the search for communities of the mind may ascend to levels of vagueness as yet undreamed of. This may be especially true of the Middle Ages, a period which does not produce quantities of documents which lend themselves easily to the exploration of identi- ties.14 It is necessary to be extremely self-conscious about the whole exercise and to ask ourselves what we are looking for, how we propose to look for it, and, when we have found it, what we intend to call it.

On the whole, medieval advocates of the county community have

I' For two excellent summaries of medieval centralization, see Smith, "'Modernization,'" pp. 161-71; G. L. Harriss, "Political Society and the Growth of Government in Late Medieval England," Past and Present, no. 138 (1993), pp. 28-57. By contrast, see, e.g., Fletcher, "National and Local Awareness," p. 152.

l2 See pp. 365-67 below.

l3 Cohen, Symbolic Construction, pp. 12-13; M. Strathern, "The Village as an Idea: Constructs of Villageness in Elmdon," in Cohen, ed., Belonging: Identity and Social Organisation; Macfarlane, "History, Anthropology and Communities," p. 633;

E. Litwak and I. Szelenyi, "Primary Group Structures and Their Functions: Kin, Neigh- bors, and Friends," American Sociological Review 34 (1969): 465-81; Sacks, "Corpo- rate Town," p. 70: "Localism as a Theory of Mentalit&"; seen. 109 below. This devel- opment is reflected in Holmes, Lincolnshire (n. 1 above), pp. 3-4.

l4 See pp. 367-69 below for discussion.

focused on the elite, the leading gentry of the county.15 In this they are taking the lead from early modern studies, which have generally confined themselves to the local officers.I6 The late medievalist cannot look at officers only, since in this period the leading gentry as a body did not yet expect to be officers and the major local offices were not yet confined exclusively to the leading families, so other means of selecting families have been employed. The detailed tax returns for 1436which survive for some counties have been used by Susan Wright, Simon Payling, and Eric Acheson, for Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, and L,eicestershire, respectively, while various other returns of men or of income from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries have been exploited by, for example, Wright and Payling and by Saul for Glouces- tershire.17 It would indeed be almost impossible to demonstrate the existence of a county community without concentrating research in the first instance on the local elite: even in the late Middle Ages they were the most likely to hold county office and therefore to have a sense of the county as a unit. They would also most commonly have the broader horizons and connections which could rise above the im- mediate locality to county level.18

But this is where the problems begin. It is not easy to demonstrate that the county was the essential focus of these families' identities. One immediate difficulty, as the early modernists had already demon- strated, while mostly glossing over its implications, is that the more

l5 Wright, Derbyshire (n. 5 above), pp. 5-6, 144; Payling, Political Society (n. 5 above), p. 18. Saul's range is defined by those who emerge from his various subjects of research, e.g., military service, retainers, and is therefore quite large and socially diverse (see the list in Saul, Knights and Esquires [n. 5 above], pp. 271-92), but in practice most of the work concentrates on the elite, especially in relation to the county commu- nity which is defined in terms of office holding and parliamentary representation (ibid., chap. 4, and see pp. 375-78 below). Bennett ranges widely but, in practice, does not have a great deal to say about either lesser men or their social and political world (Community, Class and Careeristn [n. 5 above], chaps. 2,3, and 5; and cf. D. J. Clayton, The Administration of the County Palatine of Chester, 1442-1485, Chetham Society Publications, 3d ser., no. 35 [Manchester, 19901, pp. 138-39). Acheson (Gentry Commu- nity [n. 5 above]) concentrates on the greater gentry of Leicestershire, if not explicitly so.

l6 Everitt, Kent (n. 2 above), pp. 35-36. Fletcher, County Com~nunity, p. 25; Under- down, Somerset, pp. 18-19; Morrill, Cheshire, pp. 15-16; and Hassell Smith, County and Court, pp. 53-54 (all n. 3 above), concentrate on the elite, mostly officers, in practice, if not explicitly.

Wright, Derbyshire, pp. 3-6; Saul, Knights and Esquires, pp. 30-34; Payling, Political Society, chap. 1; Acheson, Gentry Community, pp. 36-43. Bennett started from lists of meetings of gentry in Cheshire and Lancashire (Com~nunity, Class and Careerism, chap. 2, and "A County Community: Social Cohesion amongst the Cheshire Gentry, 1400- 1425," Northern History 8 [19731: 24-44).

Wright, Derbyshire, pp. 5-6, 57; Bennett, Community, Class and Careerism, pp. 34-35; Saul, Knights and Esquires, chap. 4; Payling, Political Society, pp. 111-12; Acheson, Gentry Community, pp. 132-34.

substantial the gentry family, the wider its connections would be, not just within the county but outside it as well. Marriage statistics, for instance, much used in both medieval and early modern local studies, show that the greater gentry would more often marry outside the county than more parochial families. This is hardly surprising. They were after all also more likely to have connections with other parts of England, through their more widespread lands and their broader politi- cal interests-not to mention previous instances of family exogamy-

and to want to exploit these in extending beyond the county boundaries

the perennial gentry sport of heiress hunting." Marriage also worked

the other way, in bringing in men from outside the county to marry

local heiresses.*' Although there has been insufficient systematic study

of the greater families' nonmarital connections with counties beyond

the one being ~tudied,~'

it is equally probable, for the same reasons, that these were more considerable than those of lesser families.

On the other hand, if the essence of a county community is to be found in its administration, medievalists have a difficult case to make. It has already been mentioned that one cannot equate officeholding and local leadership in this period as easily as can be done in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It was not until the later fifteenth century that it became routine for many of the greater gentry to be appointed to the commission of the peace. Even then, only a small number attended regularly, and this seems to have remained true until, with the huge growth of regulation of all kinds during the sixteenth century, the sessions became the hub of county government. Until then, there was no single locus of shire administration, and responsibil- ities were dispersed among a number of public and private officials. The latter were especially important at the lower end, where the disci-

IYHughes, Politics, Society and Civil War (n. 5 above), pp. 38-40; Fletcher, County Community, pp. 44-53; MacCulloch, Suffolk and the Tudors (n. 3 above), pp. 9,420-21; Holmes, Lincolnshire, pp. 75-76, The Eastern Association in the English Civil War (Cambridge, 1974), p. 229; Everitt, Kent, pp. 41-43; Morrill, Cheshire, pp. 3-4, 15-16; Wright, Derbyshire, p. 44; Bennett, Community, Class and Careerism, pp. 26-40 (no figures given here for exogamy, but cf. Morrill, Cheshire);Pollard, North-Eastern En- gland (n. 5 above), pp. 108-10; Payling, Political Society, pp. 15, 80-83; Acheson, Gentry Community, pp. 87-88, 155-58 (although the differentiation between gentry is not made here); N. Saul, Scenes ,from Provincial Life: Knightly Families in Sussex, 1280-1400 (Oxford, 1986), p. 61; C. Carpenter, Locality andPo1ity:A Study of Warwick- shire Landed Society, 1401-1499 (Cambridge, 1992), pp. 97- 105.

20 Payling, Political Society, pp. 51-53; C. Carpenter, Locality and Polity, pp.

61-64, 99.

Holmes, "County Community" (n. 5 above), pp. 57-58. But see Hughes, Politics, Society and Civil War, pp. 41-42; Wright, Derbyslzire, pp. 56-58, 143-44; Payling, Political Society, pp. 84-86; Acheson, Gentry Community, pp. 87-88; Saul, Scenes from Provincial Life, pp. 61-63; Carpenter, Locality and Polity, chap. 9.

pline of lordship, exercised through the manor, had yet to be fully supplanted by the crown.22

If the sessions was not yet a forum for the local leaders, then what of the county court, which has been suggested as an alternative one? Here royal writs and other forms of notification from the crown were received, and elections of M.P.s held.23 The evidence for attendance at the county court is essentially confined to election indentures and is not on the whole encouraging. Attendance was usually low, inflated, it seems, only when there was a disputed election and a "rent-acrowd" of agrarian tenants was introduced. It was rare for numbers of the local elite to turn up.24 According to the most recent historian of these courts up to 1300, their representative function, through which they were ultimately to send county representatives to Parliament, has to be placed in the context of a history of representing a variety of local landowning interests, including nobles.25 As long as the county court remained an important local judicial tribunal, it is quite possible that a significant body of local landowners would habitually have at- tended, and that would explain why it was used as a forum to publicize instruments like the Confirmation of the Charters in 1297 and Articles on the Charters in 1300.26 But after the legislation of 1278, landowners

22 Pollard, North-Eastern England, pp. 165, 167-68; Virgoe, "Aspects of the County Community" (n. 5 above), p. 7; Wright, Derbyshire, pp. 96,98, 108-9; Payling, Political Society, pp. 184, 217; Moreton, Townshends (n. 5 above), p. 62; Hassell Smith, County and Court, p. 109; MacCulloch, Suffoolk and the Tudors, pp. 113-14. Even then people might fail to attend sessions held far away from their residences (MacCulloch, Suffolk and the Tudors, p. 39; Hughes, "Warwickshire on the Eve" [n. 5 above], pp. 43-55). Similarly with M.P.s (Hughes, "Local History" [n. 5 above], p. 229). Note also Holmes's warning against identifying the commission of the peace with the county in the seventeenth century ("County Community," pp. 61-64).

23 J. R. Maddicott, "The County Community and the Making of Public Opinion in Fourteenth-Century England," Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 5th ser., 28 (1978): 28-30, 33-41; Saul, Knights and Esquires, p. 259, Scenes from Provincial Life, p. 57; Bennett, Community, Class and Careerism, pp. 24-26.

''Carpenter, Locality and Polity, pp. 341-44 and references therein and p. 342,

n. 246; Pollard, North-Eastern England, pp. 155-57; Payling, Political Society, pp. 159-65, 217, 248-49; Virgoe, "Aspects of the County Community," pp. 7-10. Compare Maddicott, "County Community," pp. 29-30 (he includes fifteenth-century returns). A meeting to elect in 1414 is used by Bennett as support for his opinion that the court could be a focal point for the county (Community, Class and Careerism, pp. 25-26), but he admits that it was exceptional. As Bennett shows, such meetings could certainly be used to get other business done, but their centrality in this respect must depend on who attended.

25 R. C. Palmer, Tlze Co~cnty Courts of Medieval England: 1150-1350 (Princeton, N.J., 1982), chaps. 3, 5, and p. 295; Maddicott, "County Community," pp. 30-32; Coss, Lordship, Kniglztlzood and Locality (n. 4 above), pp. 4-5 (although the equitability of the court scarcely seems relevant to the issue).

26 English Historical Documents, vol. 3, 1189-1327, ed. H. Rothwell (London, 1975), pp. 485, 496.

of any substance were unlikely to have business with the court, unless it concerned their tenant^.^' We should therefore not see the courts as a focus of shire unity in the later Middle Ages but rather as a remnant of a time when they had perhaps rather more significance, their atten- dance determined largely by historical obligations attached to particu- lar lands and particular lords. This would certainly explain the oddness of some of the names on the indenture^.^^

An even more pressing objection to the identification of a county elite with a county community is that it is often not at all easy to identify a county elite. If leading local families often had wider hori- zons than lesser families, this included having lands in other counties, an obvious consequence of their greater tendency to exogamy. These lands could be peripheral to the family's central interests, but often they were not. If they were sizable, they required some care in their administration and defense, and sometimes they were the site of an- other residence. Equally, since it was heirs who could most easily acquire heiresses, an incoming family would probably already have a residence elsewhere. It might set up an additional one in the county, but, if it did not, there would still be another group of lands, possibly of some consequence, whose owner had pressing responsibilities in another part of England. It was not uncommon for gentry of substance in the late Middle Ages to hold office in more than one ~ounty.~'


'' Palmer, Colcnty Courts, pp. 235-59; Maddicott, "County Community," p. 29. Maddicott does suggest that the court's role as local forum was moving elsewhere by the later fourteenth century ("County Community," p. 42), but there must be doubts about its regular function in this respect after ca.1300. If it had importance in the four- teenth century, this can only have been within a parliamentary context, and much would have depended on attendance at elections in this period, about which we know little (ibid., p. 30). Coss believes that the county court only acquired a role as a forum for local opinion from the later thirteenth century (Lordship, Knighthood and Locality, pp. 320-23), but the issue is not fully explored, and it is not evident that the matters he regards as "business" (p. 320), especially when "receiving royal news and instruction" includes receiving reissues of Magna Carta (n. 26 above), can really be distinguished from politics. For a generally pessimistic view of the court's importance to the locality from the mid-thirteenth century onward, see M. C. Prestwich, English Politics in the Thirteenth Century (London, 1990), pp. 49-58. See also pp. 375-76 below.

''Wright, Derbyshire (n. 5 above), p. 146; Carpenter, Locality and Polity, pp. 343-44. Note the exemptions from attendance from an early stage: H. M. Cam, Liberties and Communities in Medieval England (London, 1963), pp. 242-43; F. Pollock and

F. W. Maitland, A History of English Law before the Time of Edward 1, 2 vols., 2d ed. (Cambridge, 1968), 1537-38.

'"right, Derbyshire, pp. 95, 112-37; C. Carpenter, "The Fifteenth-Century En- glish Gentry and Their Estates," in Gentry and Lesser Nobility in Late Medieval Europe, ed. M. Jones (Gloucester, 1986), pp. 36-60, Locality and Polity (n. 19 above), pp. 37-38, 61-65, 92-93, 97, 274, 277; Payling, Political Society (n. 5 above), pp. 77-79; see also references in nn. 19-21 above for connections with other counties. Geographical dis- persal of interests was also not unknown in early modern England, but it does not get

dispersal of interests seems to have been particularly marked in the midland counties, to the point where, as Ann Hughes says for seven- teenth-century Warwickshire, it is not always possible to know to which county a gentry family should be a~signed.~'

And yet, although almost all the published local studies for late medieval England have dealt with midland counties, their authors have ignored this unignorable fact. This has been done mostly by some rather arbitrary process of deciding who qualifies as a member of the county elite. Those with substantial interests outside the county have generally been excl~ded.~'

Where this was manifestly impossible, for example in the case of the Shirleys, who could be assigned equally well to either Derbyshire or Leicestershire (let alone a significant stake in Warwickshire), they have by and large been treated as belonging exclusively to one or other of these counties, without regard for the effect that their involvement elsewhere might have had on their ac- tion~.~~

Medievalists have less excuse for ignoring these other connec- tions than early modern historians, who do not have the easy access enjoyed by late medievalists to names of local officers throughout En-

serious consideration: Holmes, Eastern Association (n. 19 above), p. 230; Hassell Smith, County and Court (n. 3 above), pp. 54-58.

-'O Hughes, Politics, Society and Civil War (n. 5 above), p. 40; Carpenter, Locality and Polity, pp. 37-38; A. J. Gross, "The King's Lordship in the County of Stafford, 1312-22," Midland History 16 (1991): 24. Officers in Nottinghamshire, another midland county, seem to have had more restricted employment (Payling, Political Society, p. 185).

-" Wright, Derbyshire, pp. 4, 144; Payling, Political Society, pp. 7, 15; Acheson, Gentry Comtnunity (n. 5 above), p. 39. Saul, Knights and Esquires (n. 5 above), pp. 31-32, 259, works on the assumption that gentry had only a single county of residence and that this was where they held office; to take just one fifteenth-century example from the same county, John Greville resided in both Gloucestershire and Warwickshire, while holding office mostly in the latter but occasionally in the former; see, e.g., Sir William Dugdale, The Antiquities of Warwickshire, 2 vols. in one (London, 1730), p. 707; A List of Sheriffs for England and Wales, ed. A. Hughes; Public Record Office (PRO), Lists and Indexes, main series (London, 1898; reprint, New York, 1963), 9:145-46; Calendar of the Patent Rolls Preserved in the Public Record Ofice, 1461-67 (London, 1897), p. 680, 1467-77 (London, 1900), pp. 348-49, 634 (hereafter cited as Cal. Pat. Rolls); PRO, C67142 m3. One of the problems is that contemporary lists of gentry by county (pp. 344-45 above) cannot be taken at face value, for they override the fact that they may include people who had interests at least as pressing in other counties, while omitting local landowners who appear on lists for other counties (see Carpenter, Locality and Polity, pp. 50-51, and n. 42 below).

32 Acheson has a single reference to their external interests (Gentry Community,

p. 104); Wright, Derbyshire, passim, esp. pp. 70-72, 134-36, though the author does acknowledge the problem (p. 65), and see also p. 68. For the Shirleys in Warwickshire (where for much of the century their political absence was more important than their presence), see Carpenter, Locality and Polity, e.g., pp. 28, 149, 175-76, 315-16, 525,


gland.33 But the whole issue needs thorough reexamination in both the medieval and the early modern periods. Warwickshire may have been unusually fissiparous, even for a midland county,34 but on the other hand it may not; in the midlands especially, where counties had been artificially imposed and landowners often married exogamously but within the region, we may need to consider the possibility of there being regional rather than county elites.35 Even Cheshire, with its own independent administration, turns out to be closely connected in a variety of ways with Lancashire south of the Ribble, and it was a family that was primarily Lancastrian, the Stanleys, that was to emerge as the noble leader of Cheshire ~ociety.~'

Simon Payling has given the idea that an elite could form a county community a further twist by emphasizing the Nottinghamshire elite's corporate dominance, an argument that he employs to show that it was this group that ran and directed affairs within this county .37 He is unable to demonstrate that it was either self-perpetuating or imperme- able, but he does make much of its continued corporate e~istence.~' This is not a very powerful argument, since one can do the same for all social groups without it following that they were or remained hegemonic. It would be odd if there was not at all times an elite group of landed families in local society at all periods of English history, at least until the present century. It would be equally odd if they did not dominate all the local offices that were seen to be desirable. Payling's group may be slightly more dominant in this respect than was the case in some other counties, but we shall see that there may be particular reasons for this.39 None of this makes his elite group the focal point

33 A point relating to the records in print, explained to me by Dr. John Morrill, but note Hughes's conclusions on Warwickshire: Politics, Society and Civil War, pp. 40-41,

54. The issue of employment in other counties is not considered in other early modern studies, e.g., Fletcher, County Community, p. 128; Underdown, Somerset (n. 3 above),

p. 20; Holmes, Lincolnshire (n. 1 above), pp. 79-87; Hassell Smith, County and Court

(n. 3 above), pp. 52-61. 34 See Hughes, Politics, Society and Civil War; and Carpenter, Locality and Polity,

both passim.

"Carpenter, Locality and Polity, pp. 25-27, 345; Payling, Political Society, p. 79.

36 Bennett, Community, Class and Careerism (n. 5 above), pp. 3, 14, 42, 215-23, 238; Clayton, Administration of Chester (n. 13 above), chap. 2. Clayton tries to make a socially more broadly based case than Bennett for a Cheshire county community, grounded on the large number of gentry involved in the county's administration in some way (ibid., pt. 2, passim), but, although this is almost the only county where this might be possible, because of its peculiar status and traditions, Clayton's interpretation ignores the nonadministrative links with Lancashire shown by Bennett.

37 Payling, Political Society, passim, esp. the conclusion.
Ibid., p. 10, and chap. 2, esp. pp. 49-51.
39 See pp. 362-63 below.

of a county community. This is all the more true since in practice differentiating the elite families in any one county is a lot more prob- lematic than Payling would have us suppose. Not only are there grada- tions in local standing rather than clear cutoff points, but all the prob- lems of location return again.40 Is a man a member of the elite who has a large income but does not draw anything like all of it from the county where he happens to have been taxed? Given that the greater gentry tended to have the most widespread lands, this was a distinct possibility. Does he belong to the elite by virtue of being a knight, a distinction used by Payling which fails him when he does not allow for the decline in willingness to be knighted during the course of the fifteenth ~entury?~'

Alternatively, is a man like Robert Ardern, who was not a knight and was assessed at the wealthy but not outstanding figure of £113 in 1436, but was the second largest gentry landowner within Warwickshire itself, a member of the Warwickshire elite?42 In any case, is status to be measured by income or estates-usually but not invariably coterminous-since it was lordship over land and peo- ple, more than financial resources, that ultimately determined it?43

All these problems come into sharper focus in Payling's attempt to show not only that this elite was permanent but that its dominance was being accentuated between 1399 and 1461 as more land became concentrated in its hands. We are thus presumably to see these families as the forerunners of the "magnate" gentry leaders of counties that have been identified by sixteenth-century historian^.^^ But he is too

40 Similarly in Wright, Derbyshire (n. 5 above), p. 6 (a point well made in C. More- ton, "A Social Gulf? The Upper and Lesser Gentry of Later Medieval England," Journal of Medieval History 17 [1991]: 255); cf. Carpenter, Locality and Polity (n. 19 above), chap. 3.

41 Payling, Political Society (n. 5 above), pp. 17, 75-77 Compare Carpenter, Locality and Polity, pp. 57, 66, 82-88, on changes in the meaning of knighthood and on wealthy esquires, and pp. 92-93, for problems in using income as evidence of local status.

42 M. C. Carpenter, "Polit~cal Society in Warwickshire, c.1401-72" (Ph.D. thesis, Cambridge University, 1976), app. 2, pp. 39-40; PRO, E1791192159. Compare in Not- tinghamshire, Ralph Makerell: not counted as elite, not a knight, £40 in Nottinghamshire in 1412, total income of £80 in 1436 (widow), family among most frequent Notting- hamshire officers; William Nevill of Rolleston: counted as elite, a knight, £20 in Not- tinghamshire in 1412, total income of £ 120 in 1436 (Thomas Nevill), family held few Nottinghamshire offices (Payling, Political Society, pp. 3, 222-23, 227, 244-45); which of these two had more influence in Nottinghamshire?

43 Carpenter, Locality and Polity, pp. 56, 283-84. Note, however, the large income that could arise in some instances from a single manor. The most notable Warwickshire example is Birmingham, valued at f40 by an inquisition post mortem (I.P.M.), in 1478;

1.P.M.s frequently undervalued (Carpenter, Locality and Polity, p. 18, n. 6).

44See n. 16 above. The word "magnate" is used for the leading local gentry in Hassell Smith, County and Court (n. 3 above), pp. 51-52.

vague regarding the exact location of the wealth and landed power of the families; he misunderstands the significance of knighthood, and his confusing assertion that the attraction of heirs to heiresses combined with successive family failures produced concentration in fewer hands is unc~nvincing.~' In fact, a simple exercise carried out with the ten leading Warwickshire families, using both incomes assessed in 1436 and numbers of manors within Warwickshire, shows that the general and predictable tendency for land to gravitate toward land during the course of the century was counteracted by the equally obvious ten- dency for estates to disperse on the failure of male heirs. And through- out the century the Warwickshire elite is a mixture of knights and esquires.46

The case for a county community in late medieval England based on the local elite is not yet proven, and it will require more searching examination of both premises and evidence if it is to be made convinc- ingly. However, as is now being realized, the existence of a county community depends on more than the local elite.47 This was indeed implicit from the start; the ideological debt to the social scientists' communitylsociety categories meant that it was necessary to demon- strate the organic unity of the county, sealed in a harmonious hierar- ch~.~~

But a great deal of the harmony was arrived at more by assertion than by demonstration. Everitt, for instance, studied 170 leading fami-

45 Payling, Political Society, pp. 64-73. Payling may be right, but his theory needs to be placed on firmer ground by counting the numbers of manors held by his elite families at various times in the century. A more recent piece of work suggests that he has changed his mind on this point (S. J. Payling, "Social Mobility, Demographic Change and Landed Society in Late Medieval England," Economic History Review 45 [1992]: 51-73).

46 Number of Warwickshire manors held by county elite: the ten leading families on the basis of number of Warwickshire manors: fifty-two manors in 1410 (six knights, four esquires), sixty-nine in 1436 (six knights, four esquires), fifty-three in 1500 (two knights, eight esquires); the ten leading families on the basis of global income in 1436 (note that this includes those on tax returns from other counties; of the manorial elite, this excludes the Catesbys, for whom there is no extant return): forty-seven manors in 1436 (seven knights, three esquires); eight of these families existed in 1410 (two knights, five esquires. one other), holding thirty-three manors; seven of these families existed in 1500 (three knights, four esquires), holding twenty-two manors. See The Victoria County History of the County of Warwick, 8 vols. with index (London, 1904-69), vols. 3-6; Dugdale, Antiquities (n. 31 above); Carpenter, Locality and Polity, chap. 3, esp. p. 36,

n. 7, apps. 1 and 2, "Political Society," apps. 2 and 3. Figures from 1500 are somewhat misleading; a count taken ca. 1510 would produce a larger number of knights (part of a movement back towards knighthood dating from ca.1470) and probably a larger number of manors in the hands of the elite (Carpenter, Locality and Polity, pp. 85-88).

47 Everitt, New Avenues (n. 10 above), p. 6; Williams, "Crown and Counties" (n. 5 above), pp. 137-38; A. Fletcher, Reform in the Provinces: The Government of Stuart England (New Haven, Conn., 1986), pp. 365-66; Holmes, "County Community," pp. 70-71.

48 See references in nn. 8 and 10 above; and Holmes, Lincolnshire (n. 1 above),

p. 2, "County Community" (n. 5 above), pp. 70-71.

lies out of an estimated total of 800-1,000.49 Much of the reason for this is of course sheer weight of numbers. In Cheshire it has been estimated that there were just over 600 gentry families in the period leading up to the civil war, of whom sixty-five to seventy can be attrib- uted to a county elite." In the early modern period, things are now being made much worse by the need to take the far more numerous and growingly articulate "middling sort" into acco~nt.~'

Medievalists are probably safe to stop at the gentlemanlyeoman boundary where the qualification to act as juror and elector lay, and, in practice, they can usually limit themselves to the bottom rung of gentlemen, since access to the political world in this period was largely confined to those with manorial lordship over men, the basic definition it seems of gentilit~.'~ But that still makes a lot of people. In Cheshire there were about 500 adult members of the gentry at any one time in the middle of the fifteenth century .s3 The present author, aiming at a com- prehensive study of the Warwickshire gentry across a century, was obliged to investigate about 750 individual^.^^

What is needed, despite the numbers involved, is a careful exami- nation of the links at all levels of gentry society, the identification and social analysis of groupings, and an assessment of the strength of connection between the levels of the gentry hierarchy. Such work as exists demonstrates clearly the importance of highly localized groups. Some of it shows the close links that they could build between leading gentry and very minor fa mi lie^.^' In some cases it can be observed that the more the area was cut off geographically from its immediate surroundings-the heart of the Warwickshire Arden, for example-the

4y Everitt, Kent (n. 2 above), pp. 33-34. Clayton, Administration of Chester (n. 13 above), pp. 140-41, n. 24; Morrill, Cheshire (n. 3 above), p. 16.

" Fletcher, "National and Local Awareness" (n. 5 above), p. 151; Smith, "'Mod- ernization''' (n. 8 above), p. 162; R. Cust, "Politics and the Electorate in the 1620s," in Cust and Hughes, eds., Conflict in Early Stuart England (n. 5 above), pp. 134-67.

52 Payling, Political Society (n. 5 above), p. 158; E. Powell, "Jury Trial at Gaol Delivery in the Late Middle Ages: The Midland Circuit," in Twelve Good Men and True: The Criminal J~lryin England, 1200-1800, ed. J. S. Cockburn and T. A. Green (Princeton, N.J., 1988), pp. 78-116; Carpenter, Locality and Polity (n. 19 above), pp. 73-76, 435-36.

j3 Clayton, Administration of Chester, pp. 133-36.

54 Carpenter, Locality and Polity, app. 1. Wright, Derbyshire (n. 5 above), concen- trates on about fifty families out of over two hundred (pp. 5-6, 11).

55 Wright, Derbyshire, pp. 143-44, 146; Payling, Political Society, p. 86; Saul, Scenes from Provincial Life (n. 19 above), pp. 63-64; Pollard, North-Eastern England

(n. 5 above), pp. 108-10; Moreton, "A Social Gulf?" (n. 40 above), pp. 255-65, Townshends (n. 5 above), pp. 23-27: Acheson, Gentry Cornrrlunity (n. 5 above), pp. 83-87; Carpenter, Locality and Polity, chap. 9.

stronger and more cohesive the local grouping was likely to be. This would be especially true of areas where the gentry were preponder- antly of middling or lowly rank, their interests largely confined to that one areas6 It is a salutary corrective to the overemphasis on the local elite.

What this work does not show is that this created organic unity within the county. Certainly in some local groups middling and elite gentry can be seen as the conduit for lesser men to the broader political and social world, but these groups resist a county-based classifica- ti~n.~'

They do not on the whole correspond with the hundred, so one cannot argue that the county gentry represented their lesser neighbors from the hundred to the county." More often than not they comprise an area defined by geography and local economy, which crossed county boundaries, and which it has now become fashionable to call thepays. Indeed, the pays seems well on the way to becoming as great a shibboleth as the county once was.59 It is a welcome adjustment of perspective, not least in that it recognizes that geography is not constrained by administrative boundaries. This fact tended to go unac- knowledged in early modern county studies, which would characteris- tically start with a geography section which sat uneasily with the asser- tions of county unity which were to follow its6' Indeed, study of groups of this sort in the late medieval period is being used to justify a still more localist view of gentry society, one that does not stretch beyond tenants and neighbors. It is worthwhile to be reminded that much of

j6 Carpenter, Locality and Polity, pp. 296-97, 300-303, 344; cf. J. Boissevain, Friends of Friends: Networks, Manip~llators and Coalitions (Oxford, 1974), pp. 71-72. '' Carpenter, Locality and Polity, pp. 335, 345.

Bennett makes a case for the hundred but not a very well supported one (Community, Class and Careerism [n. 5 above], pp. 42-43). Moreover, the peculiarities of Chesh- ire's local government (see p. 350 above; Clayton, Administration of Chester, chap. 1 and pp. 195-97; Bennett, Community, Class and Careerism, pp. 239-40) may have given the hundred more significance here. Compare Carpenter, Locality and Polity, p.

340. Saul suggests that the Sussex lathe may have been something of a focus for local identity (Scenes from Provincial Life, pp. 59-60).

'' Everitt, "Country, County and Town" (n. 5 above), pp. 80-83; MacCulloch, Sumk and the Tudors (n. 3 above), pp. 9, 39; Williams, "Crown and Counties" (n. 5 above), pp. 136-37; Hughes, Politics, Society and Civil War (n. 5 above), p. 41; D. Postles, "The Pattern of Rural Migration in a Midlands County: Leicestershire. c. 1270- 1350," Continuity and Change 6 (1992): 145, 148; Pollard, North-Eastern England, p. 6; Moreton, Townshends, pp. 81, 195; Carpenter, Locality and Polity, pp. 296-309; Saul, Scenes from Provincial Life, p. 61.

For example, Fletcher, County Community (n. 3 above), p. 4 (cf. Saul, Scenes from Provincial Lifr, pp. 58-61); P. Clark, Etlglish Provincial Society from the Reforma- tion to the Revolution: Religion, Politics atid Society in Kent, 1500-1640 (Hassocks,

1977), p. 120; Morrill, Cheshire (n. 3 above), pp. 4-5; Everitt, Kent (n. 2 above), p. 43; Hughes, "Local History" (n. 5 above), p. 230.

any gentry family's time would be spent with tenants and servants of lower status and with other gentry families from the immediate neighborhood, whether of higher or lower status, but it does not repre- sent any great analytical advance. The question is not how much time was spent with any particular group, but what significance was given to the relationship, and in that respect these studies take us no further. As with the concentration on the elite, the view is partial, and it is not surprising that, while elite studies lead to an emphasis on the county, the single family approach has led to this extreme localism.61

Local cohesion in late medieval society is also being revealed in a large amount of recent work on conflict and the law. Here again we need to differentiate ties among the gentry from the real "face to face" ties that could be found within a village. As one anthropologist has pointed out, the more intense the localism, the more complex relations become, because it is much less easy simply to walk away from conflict with people with whom you live.62 The gentry were perhaps less willing to resolve discord at an early stage, not just because honor was at stake, although it certainly was, but because they did not have to live in permanent proximity even with their closest neighbors. Evidence that conflict was more readily settled among gentry who resided in geographically enclosed areas seems to support this theory .63 It might suggest that much of the conflict among landowners found in the legal records, especially that which is not instantly resolved, is more a func- tion of distance than indicative of serious instability. It is indeed be- coming a commonplace that conflict and litigation cannot always be taken at face value, that law itself settled nothing among the gentry, and that a real settlement could only be reached by more informal means: arbitration before a case ever went to law or after it had reached the law courts. Moreover, resort to law was in itself the sign of a local breakdown, and no permanent agreement could be achieved without the restoration of some degree of local harmony. All this is leading toward a fruitful appreciation of the importance of associative

" Moreton "A Social Gulf?" pp. 255-65, Townshends, pp. 195-96. C. Richmond, John Hopton (Cambridge, 1981), focusing on a single man and his family, seems to be veering in the same direction, if not explicitly (pp. xvii, 167, 259-60). We might also consider the significance of ties forged across social and economic frontiers in wartime, although these are likely to have greater effect in areas much used for military recruit- ment, such as Cheshire (P. Morgan, War and Society in Medieval Cheshire, 1277-1403, Chetham Society Publications, 3d ser., no. 34 [Manchester, 19871, chap. 4).

'*Cohen, Symbolic Construction (n. 8 above), pp. 28-29.

63 Carpenter, Locality and Polity (n. 19 above), pp. 22, 436, 623-24. As was proba- bly the case in villages, conflict was more easily engendered in areas such as this, as well as more rapidly settled.

ties among the gentry, but it does not assist the case for a county community; arbitrations were certainly performed by prominent mem- bers of the gentry, but more often they were done by nobles, justices, or ~hurchmen.~~

It is accordingly at this point that we must introduce the vexed question of the local power of the nobility.65 Proponents of the county community in late medieval England are agreed that the nobility did not rule the provinces. When it seems to have been shown incontro- vertibly that they did so, notably in Devon and Warwickshire, these counties are dismissed as exceptions to the norm of rule by the gentry ,elite,'j6 for the existence of an elite is seen as integral to its independent exercise of local power.67 It is indeed true that, at its most immediate, noble power was not exercised at county level, because noble estates did not match county boundaries; it could normally only be brought to bear on a county through an amalgam of interests from within and outside the county.68 Noble rule is therefore inimical to the idea of a county community. Although the authors may not realize it, this is another part of the theoretical model inherited from the early modern- ists. A key component of the organic community model is that it has no politics. As interpreted by Everitt's influential work, politics are

"For work on arbitration, of which that by Edward Powell is the most important, see Carpenter, Locality and Polity, p. 2, n. 9. A recent key work on the subject of late medieval society and the law is P. C. Maddern, Violence and Social Order.: East Anglia, 1422-1442 (Oxford, 1992). See also Carpenter, Locality and Polity, pt. 2, passim, esp. pp. 621-25; Payling, Political Society (n. 5 above), pp. 201-13; Bennett, Cornmunity, Class and Careerism, p. 33; Pollard, North-Eastern England, pp. 113-20; S. Walker, The Lancastrian Affinity, 1361-1399 (Oxford, 1990), pp. 118-19, 155-56, 157. Also see

n. 72 below. 65 Summarized in Walker, Lancastrian Affinity, pp. 3-6. 66 Carpenter, Locality and Polity, chaps. 9 and 10, "The Beauchamp Affinity: A

Study of Bastard Feudalism at Work," English Hisiorical Review 95 (1980): 514-32; M. Cherry, "The Courtenay Earls of Devon: The Creation and Disintegration of an Aristo- cratic Affinity," Southern History 1 (1979): 71-97; Gunn, review (n. 6 above), p. 1000; Payling, Political Society, pp. 87, 219; Acheson, Gentry Cornmunity (n. 5 above), pp. 93-94. But note another series of "exceptions": Pollard, North-Eastern England (n. 5 above), pp. 401-3.

67 Most explicitly in Payling, Political Society, p. 88.

The impossibility of assessing noble power properly through the county in a study of a fragmented county is implicit throughout Wright's in many ways excellent account of Derbyshire (Derbyshire [n. 5 above], e.g., pp. 60, 63-66, 82, 145). For a summary of the problem, which was probably particularly acute in the midlands (see pp. 348-50 above), see C. Carpenter, "The Duke of Clarence and the Midlands: A Study in the Interplay of Local and National Politics," Midland History 11 (1986): 25-26, and "Beau- champ Affinity," pp. 517-18 (but note the correction in Locality and Polity, p. 318, n. 147). Also, Gross, "King's Lordship" (n. 30 above), p. 30; Prestwich, English Politics

(n. 27 above), pp. 60-61.

defined as something nasty and external, in this case parliamentary politics occurring at Westminster, while what goes on inside the county is nonpolitical feuding among kin and over patr~nage.~' This is very much the view from the provinces we are offered by Payling, Saul, and Acheson, and to some extent by Wright, except that for these authors the external factor is the nobility ."

The arguments which deny local power to the nobility can be summarized as follows: that there were none there of sufficient power (Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, and Cheshire until the rise of the Stanleys), that they were unable to do it (Derbyshire under both Hum- phrey of Buckingham and later under Hastings, and much of John of Gaunt's domains), or that they had too few retainers among a large number of gentry to make any significant local impact (John of Gaunt again), or, a less sophisticated variant on this theme, that there were numbers of "independent gentry" (Gloucestersl~ire).~~

To a large ex- tent, these rest on misapprehensions about what rule by lords meant. Moreover, it is a mistake to assume that, because a particular political or social model does not always work perfectly, it is therefore not the dominant one. If this were true, then future historians would have to deny that the family or democratic forms of government existed in the twentieth century. What requires elucidation is the expectations of the people concerned.

Certain basic points about the late medieval polity are now gener- ally re~ognized.~~

First, the judicial process, which protected land, was

69 Note Finberg's belief that local history cannot illuminate national history: "Local Historian and His Theme" (n. 10 above), pp. 12-13; Fletcher, County Community,

p. 246; but cf. Holmes' attention to "brokers," Lincolnshire (n. 1 above), chaps. 5 and 6; Cust and Hughes, "Introduction: After Revision~sm" (n. 10 above), p. 5; Sacks, "Corporate Town" (n. 7 above), pp. 70, 71-73. See in Wright, Derbyshire, p. 66: "In Derbyshire it was the retinue that was the external factor."

Also implicit in Moreton, Toc,nshends (n. 5 above), pp. 23-27, 196.

" Payling, Political Society, chaps. 1 and 4; Bennett, Community, Class and Career- ism (n. 5 above), pp. 74-76; Acheson, Gentry Comm~lnity, pp. 18-28; Wright, Derbyshire, passim, esp. pp. 63-66, 68-91, 98-101, 144-45; Walker, Lancastrian Afjnity, chaps. 5-7; Payling, Political Society, chap. 7; Saul, Knights and Esquires (n. 5 above), pp. 102-3, 105, 166-67, 261. Saul makes a similar point in Scenes from Provincial Life, pp. 56-57, although, as in Gloucestershire (Saul, Knights and Esquires, as in n. 72 below), there was clearly a lot of noble influence about, which would repay investigation at greater depth (pp. 29-38); and see Walker on Lancastrian power in Sussex (Lancastrian Af$nity, pp. 127-41). See also Richmond, John Hopton (n. 61 above), pp. 110, 161-63.

72 For what follows, see Saul, Knights and Esquires, pp. 82, 90-91, 189-204; Wright, Derbyshire, chap. 9 and pp. 143-44; Bennett, Community, Class and Careerism, pp. 220-22; Pollard, North-Eastern England, pp. 155-67; Walker, Lancastrian Affinity, chaps. 5-7; Carpenter, Locality and Polity, pt. 2, passim, esp. pp. 347-60, "Beauchamp

the most important and potentially the most contentious part of royal governance for landowners. Secondly, all government functioned with a large measure of delegation. The operation of the law was therefore very much determined by local power structures rather than-as was to be the case under the Tudors and Stuarts-by royal interferen~e.~' Consequently, this was not normally a court-centered polity, and this was not a time when a career could routinely be made as a court noble;74 the levers on local power and influence were not yet to be found there, and there was too little spare patronage for a noble to build up a following, as Elizabethan noblemen were later to do, by channeling royal favors of all sorts out to their men.75 Lords them- selves did not have the money to recruit on a large scale by financial

inducement^.^^ Therefore, what a lord could do for his clients was to protect their land, by the influence he could bring to bear on both public processes and private settlements in the localities where his lands lay. That was why lords were able to recruit affinities in these areas. It was also why they had to be able to translate the immediate and private authority they had in and around their estates into a viable leadership of the county, since it was through the county administra- tion that the public processes operated. The lords' role in this has been shown clearly by some of the main advocates of gentry-run counties.77 This polity can be conceptualized as two complementary and mutually reinforcing chains of command, one public and governmental, the other private. The private one, which provided the means of enforce- ment for the public processes, was rooted in the ultimate source of all power in medieval England, tenant power from lands. It follows that

Affinity," pp. 514-32, "Law, Justice and Landowners in Late-Medieval England," Law

and History Review 1 (1983): 205-37.

'' Carpenter, Locality and Polity (n. 19 above), pp. 633-37.

74 The exceptions, Richard I1 and Henry VI, prove the rule (A. Tuck, Richard II

and the English Nobility [London, 19731, chaps. 3 and 4; Carpenter, Locality and Polity,

p. 631).

75 Carpenter, Locality and Polity, pp. 633-34 and references therein. Men who rose by service at court did not usually become great in the country unless, like Cromwell, they were able to use their influence to acquire landed power (Payling, Political Society

[n. 5 above], pp. 96-97, 143-47). If they tried to wield influence largely on the strength of their court connections, this was likely to provoke antagonism (see n. 74 above). The only notable family of court nobles in the fifteenth century were the Beauforts who were in the peculiar position of being closely related to the crown but underendowed (G. L. Harriss, Cardinal Beaufort: A Study of Lancastrian Ascendancy and Decline [Oxford, 19881, chap. 1 and passim; M. K. Jones and M. G. Underwood, The King's Mother: Lady Margaret Beaufort Countess ofRichmond and Derby [Cambridge, 19921, chap. 1).

76 Payling, Political Society, pp. 105-8.
77 See references in n. 72 above; in Payling, Political Society, note esp. p. 105.

the expectation must have been that the lords, individually the greatest landed powers in most parts of England, would act as the essential link between center and locality in ensuring that the king's government would be carried on.78 If this was not the case, and since there was no obvious role for them at the center of government, one is reduced to asking, like the child confronted with the posturing politician, "Daddy, what is that man for?"

Unfortunately, there has been an "all or nothing" approach to the question of noble influence on gentry societies, which leaves us with counties either wholly dominated by nobles or wholly run by the gentry. Meanwhile, the implications of the fact that in many, if not most, instances the reality probably lay somewhere in between go ~nexplored.'~That is no doubt why the only cases for the local power of the nobility have been made for counties where noble authority was indisputable, to the point where any unity the county had seems to have come through the dominant noble family.80 Moreover, the whole approach to the subject of noble power in the shires has often been based on crude assumptions about the relations between nobility and gentry which imply mutual antagonism over fundamental matters af- fecting local rule. For instance, noble rule is seen to denote "subservi- ence" and is contrasted with gentry "independen~e."~' It is assumed that the appointment to local office of a suitably qualified member of the local elite must manifest freedom from noble interference, when any halfway sensible nobleman will ensure that he recruits to his fol- lowing precisely those leading local figures who are most likely to be appointed to office.82 He will also want to have them in his affinity for

Why else were they normally placed on comm~ssions of the peace in the counties where they had a large landed interest, if not so that their authority could be used to buttress that of the justices who usually d~d the actual sitting? (See, e.g., Payling, Political Society, pp. 170-72; Acheson, Gentr?. Community [n. 5 above], p. 130; Carpen- ter, Locality and Polity, pp. 347-48 and 283-86, 347-60.)

79 See, e.g., Wright, Derbyshire (n. 5 above), p. 145: "No simple model of magnate hierarchy will fit the complex structure of Derbyshire soc~ety," but would it fit any part of England then'?

80 Carpenter, "Beauchamp Affinity" (n. 66 above), pp. 523-24, Locality and Polity,

p. 3 18; Cherry, "Courtenay Earls" (n. 66 above), pp. 76-80.

8' Payling, Political Society, pp. 104-5, 106-8; Acheson, Gentry Community, p. 94 (the extraordinary statement, "In [Devon and Warwickshire] resident magnates com- posed the political score which the gentry . . . then played to order"), p. 202; Saul, Knights and Esquires (n. 5 above), chap. 4, esp. p. 248: "Retaining still posed a threat to the growing identity of gentry with shire that emerged in the fourteenth century," and conclusion. Compare Walker, Lancastrian Affinity, p. 114.

82 Wright, Derbyshire, p. 117; Payling, Political Society, p. 120. Compare Pollard, North-Eastern England (n. 5 above), pp. 155-56; Carpenter, Locality and Polity, 275-77.

the influence they can employ among those local groupings where they may well be leading figures.83

This is where we come to the other fallacy, that "simple mathe- matics" can show that the nobility could not rule the shires.*4 Not unexpectedly, mathematics reveal that collectively the gentry held much more land than the nobility and that no nobleman could hope to retain all the gentry, or even all the leading gentry, in a county .*5 But what was important was that in most counties there was at least one nobleman who was individually substantially more powerful than any of the gentry in the county, in terms of both global wealth and actual land held within the county, and was in a position to act as leader in local affairs. Nor was it necessary to retain all the local gentry. What was required was strategic recruitment, ensuring the loyalty of families that would be most useful to the lord, as local officers and as means of access to local society. "Friends of friends" were a vital part of this extension of authority, for they could create ties which noble or gentry might choose on occasion to a~tivate.'~

And this indeed is the core of the whole relationship. It was not a matter of dominant noble or assertive gentry, not at least if it was to work, but a complex recipro- cal tie based on mutual respect. It drew together the elements of a hierarchy of land and power-nobles, greater gentry, middling gentry, lesser gentry-all of whom shared the same values. And within this hierarchy each side in turn might take the lead. This was how effica- cious lordship operated, and it means that lordship can only be prop- erly assessed by tracing and evaluating all the connections of the gen- try, both direct and indirect, with lords and with each other.*' Counting retainers is a beginning, but it is not enough.88 Of course there could be friction, as in all relationships of this kind, but to represent this in

83 See, e.g., Gaunt's Lancashire retainers (Walker, Lancastrian Affinity [n. 64 above], p. 146); see n. 86 below. 84 Payling, Political Society, p. 105; Walker, Lancastrian Affinity, pp. 146-48, 250-54.

"Payling, Political Society (n. 5 above), chap. 1 and pp. 105-8; T. B. Pugh, "The Magnates, Knights and Gentry," in Fifteenth-Century England, 1399-1509: Studies in Politics and Society, ed. S. B. Chrimes, C. D. Ross, and R. A. Griffiths (Manchester, 1972), pp. 86-128; Carpenter, Locality and Polity (n. 19 above), p. 36.

86 This point about the nobility can be established by reference to the medieval works inn. 5 above; "nobles" includes the crown as private landowner. See Boissevain, Friends of Friends (n. 56 above), passim; Carpenter, Locality and Polity, pp. 276, 320-21, 335-36, 621-22, "Beauchamp Affinity," pp. 523-24.

Carpenter, Locality and Polity, pt. 2, passim. It is precisely these crucial less formal ties that are dismissed by Payling (Political Society, p. 107: "Such connections must by their very nature have been tenuous"). Why?

AS, e.g., in Payling, Political Society, p. 106; and Saul, Knights and Esquires,

p. 98.

class-based terms is to misinterpret the nature of late medieval landed society.89 How it worked depended on a variety of factors, including local tenurial ge~graphy,~'

external circumstances, and, not least, the personal ability of the lords themselves, for even Devon and Warwick- shire were only subject to such effective lordship under particularly able earls."

What has obscured the essential role of the nobility in the rule of the localities in late medieval England, in contrast to the two centuries that followed, is the fact that a large proportion of the published studies of late medieval counties are of regions where the duke of Lancaster was the leading noble. Simon Walker's sophisticated exploration of the role of John of Gaunt's affinity in the localities reveals very clearly how unusual it was: large, widespread, militarized, often unsuper- vised, and, except insofar as it provided him with an army, not integral to the political ambitions of its lord. The latter, a would-be foreign conqueror who was close to the throne and heavily involved in high politics, had neither the time nor the need to give close attention to the areas where his lands lay. It was this neglect, rather than "simple mathematics," which undermined his local authority.92

Once these lands were owned by the crown, not only did they become even more exceptional, but it is easy to forget that they did have a highly dominant lord, namely the duke of Lancaster, who just happened to be the king. The same is true of Cheshire, with the proviso that its earldom was normally held by the king's eldest son if he had one. From the work of Bennett, Payling, Wright, and Acheson one fact is evident, and that is that the greatest landowner, and potentially the most influential figure, in the counties they have studied was the earl of Chester or the duke of Lancaster." This applies equally well to Lord Hastings when he was rebuilding the duchy retinue for

89 Well appreciated in Wright, Derbyshire (n. 5 above), pp. 64-65. See also Carpen- ter, Locality and Polity, passim, esp. chap. 17, "Law, Justice and Landowners" (n. 72 above), p. 231. The mutuality of the relationship between lords and followers has rarely been denied: e.g., K. B. McFarlane, The Nobility of Later Medieval England (Oxford, 1973), chap. 1, p. vi; Carpenter, "Beauchamp Affinity," pp. 519-31.

"Payling's tables (Political Society, pp. 12, 170) show how much this varied. " Cherry, "Courtenay Earls," pp. 90-97; Carpenter, Locality and Polity, chaps. 10-13.

9? Walker, Lancastrian Afinity, passim, esp. pp. 248-50; also implicit in Walker's account of the more normal. and locally more successful, affinity of the Staffords in Staffordshire (pp. 213-14, 216). Similarly, see Thomas of Lancaster (Gross, "King's Lordship" [n. 30 above], pp. 27-41, esp. p. 30).

9' Bennett, Community, Class and Careeristn (n. 5 above), pp. 70-72 and passim, esp. chap. 10; Wright, Derbyshire, esp. chap. 6; Acheson, Gentry Comtn~lnity, pp. 98-105; Payling, Political Society, pp. 7, 119-56 (much of this was through extensive overlordships rather than through land held in demesne).

Edward IV between 1474 and 1483.94 Acheson mistakes duchy rule for the influence of the crown95 and Payling, while recognizing the peculiar role of the duchy in Nottinghamshire, writes as if this was the universal mode of royal g~vernance.~~

Investigation of these counties as areas of noble lordship would almost certainly prove instructive and rewarding. Did they conform to the general pattern of lordship as revealed in Devonshire and Warwick- shire, or, as one would guess from Walker's work on Gaunt, were there striking differences? Four ways in which they may have been different immediately spring to mind. One is that the unique circum- stances of the lord being also the king may have led to office and favor (the latter available in unusually large quantities for a lord in this pe- riod) being concentrated among a small number of families, which might lend support, if of a different sort, to Payling's idea of a gentry elite.97 The second is that duchy honors like Tutbury, which lay in both Staffordshire and Derbyshire, may have acted as forceful solvents of county solidarity. There may have been not just regional elites but regional politics within the duchy areas, which the county approach may obscure.98 The third is that lordship of this kind is likely to have been more relaxed and distant, both because of the weight of other responsibilities held by the earllduke and because he already pos- sessed the loyalty of the local gentry as king, before he began to turn it into a more personal loyalty as lord. This may give a false illusion of laxity.99 This unusual form of lordship would also have enhanced the local prominence of the leading gentry and even of minor lords like the Greys of Codnor, who could act as foci of the duchy interest for the absentee 10rdlking.'~~

The fourth is the most obvious: that in

94 Wright, Derbyshire, pp. 78-79, 188-89; Carpenter, Locality and Polity, pp. 518-20, "Duke of Clarence" (n. 68 above), pp. 34-36.

y5 Acheson, Gentry Community (n. 5 above), pp. 98-105.

y6 Payling, Political Society (n. 5 above), pp. 110, 147-49, 219-20.

y7 Carpenter, Locality and Polity (n. 19 above), pp. 274-75, 632; Payling. Political Society, pp. 118-19; Wright, Derbyshire, p. 97. Note that, at a time when it seems to have been unusual for the major families regularly to act as J.P.s, they were doing so in Nottinghamshire-possibly under pressure from the kinglduke? (Payling, Political Society, p. 113; and cf. Carpenter, Locality and Polity, pp. 61, 88).

98 Implicit but not addressed in much of Wright, Derbyshire (e.g., pp. 60, 90-91, 143-44); Payling, Political Society, 84-85. See also Pollard, North-Eastern England

(n. 5 above), esp, p. 3; and R. R. Davies, Lordship and Society in the March of Wales, 1282-1400 (Oxford, 1978), for regionalism within other areas. "Wright, Derbyshire (n. 5 above), pp. 78-81. Compare Carpenter, Locality and Polity, pp. 525-32, 545-46.

loo Wright, Derbyshire, p. 66; Carpenter, Locality and Polity, pp. 532, 606-11, 640; and see Wright, Derbyshire, pp. 66-68 on Sir Richard Vernon; and Payling, Political Society, pp. 120-24 and 128-29, on Sir Thomas Rempston and Sir Thomas Chaworth. This would be worth pursuing in relation to the apparent preponderance of nonnoble feoffees: was a particular group of gentry frequently used by their fellows, and were

periods of ineffective kingship, the areas where the king was a great noble in his own right, lacking lordship as well as kingship, are likely to have been peculiarly disturbed.I0'

Lordship has also been obscured in almost all the medieval local studies by their thematic arrangement. Since the creation of effective rule was essentially a matter of political management, only a chrono- logical analysis will reveal the full extent and effectiveness of noble power. Even with thematic treatment, the power of nobles like Crom- well in Nottinghamshire, Buckingham in Derbyshire, and the Stanleys in Cheshire is very evident, but in none of these studies is the matter systematically pursued, although Susan Wright comes closest. Again, the duchy element is lost: it is apparent from Payling's work that what Cromwell was doing in Nottinghamshire was trying to pick up some of the pieces of duchy power that had fallen from Henry VI's lifeless hands, and Helen Castor in her study of the duchy under the Lancastri- ans has shown how the same thing happened in Derbyshire; there, apart from the duchy responsibilities that had been handed over to him, and such influence as he could wield from Staffordshire, Bucking- ham had no power base at all. We should not be surprised that, in the circumstances, neither was able to make the county his own, although Payling shows that Cromwell's efforts were not without their succes~es.'~~

To emphasize their apolitical approach, in none of these county studies have the authors addressed politics as a separate sub- ject; it is subsumed into office holding, local conflict and resolution, or some similar category.Io3 Consequently, the crucial issue of the effectiveness of the link between center and locality has been squeezed out, as belonging to that alien excluded world of politics, along with the nobles who acted as the pivots between center and periphery.

the feoffees usually connected to the local lord, i.e., the duke of Lancaster? (cf. in Payling, Political Society, pp. 83-84 and 120-21).

lo' E. Powell, Kingship, Law, and Society: Criminal Justice in the Reign ofHenry V (Oxford, 1989), chap. 8; R. L. Storey, The End ofthe House of Lancaster (London, 1966), chaps. 11 and 13; Carpenter, Locality and Polity, pp. 368, 476. This may also be true of Yorkshire (Pollard, North-Eastern England, pp. 100-101, and chaps. 10 and 11).

lo' Wright, Derbyshire, chaps. 5-9, esp. pp. 68-73; Payling, Political Society, pp. 143-47, 208-11; H. Castor, The Duchy of Lancaster in the Lancastrian Polity, 13991461 (Ph.D. thesis, Cambridge University, 1992), chap. 8. The pursuit of political alle- giances cannot be done without detailed time-consuming research (p. 360 above); one has to be very satisfied that all possible sources have been examined before accepting the existence of "independent gentry" (Saul, as in n. 71 above); cf. Carpenter, "Law, Justice and Landowners" (n. 72 above), p. 206, n. 7. Acheson notes but fails to pursue spheres of noble power in Leicestershire (Gentry Community, pp. 94-98) and, notably, fails to use the two most important sources for the nobility's ties with the gentry in the PRO, SCllIl2 and SC6 (p. 259).

'03 Acheson, Gentry Community, does have a chapter (chap. 4) with "politics" in the title, but it deals with allegiances rather than politics.

When the effects of lordship on relations among a lord's clients have been studied in detail, even in areas where lordship is held to be ineffective, they suggest that these were far from negligible.'04 Further- more, some of the localized groups of gentry, including those that crossed county boundaries, can be matched with the configurations of noble estates, sometimes of considerable antiquity.lO"he power of the nobility can easily prove elusive when the county is the unit of study, since it was not the natural medium of noble power, especially when study is conducted without reference to the wider political world with which the nobility were normally the essential connecting link. That is why the case for the absence of noble power in the shires in late medieval England is, like the case for a county community, so far not proven. It needs to be stressed that, because of the complexity of political structures, in examining the location of power on a county basis we are dealing with an infinite number of variables along the spectrum between noble hegemony and gentry independence. It will no doubt often turn out that a single noble was unable to manage the county, if only because it was unusual for the geography of either gentry or noble lands to be coterminous with the county. That may have represented a serious curtailment of a nobleman's local authority, for he could only fully protect his followers' lands by command of the judicial processes which operated through the medium of the county. But instead of saluting this as the "triumph of the county gentry," we should ask instead what were the implications for local authority and local stability when this was the case. Did the gentry really manage on their own, and, if so, how, and how did they go about making remonstrations to the center outside the infrequent parliamentary gath- ering~;''~or did groups of nobles try to conduct county affairs in con- cert or, alternatively, fail to do so? We must also never forget the

'04 Walker, Lancastrian Afinity (n. 64 above), pp. 112-15; Carpenter, Locality and Polity, pp. 312-21, 323-33, 337-38.

'05 Wright, Derbyshire, pp. 90-91; Carpenter, Locality and Polity, 308-9. Compare Coss, Lordship, Knigl~thood and Locality (n. 4 above), pp. 5, 44-60. There may have been more noble influence than Moreton gives credit for in the Townshends' corner of East Anglia, at least in the period ca. 1450-1500; it does not seem entirely probable that a lawyer, however astute in moving between employers, could be as politically neutral as Moreton implies, since the county, according to Moreton, was run by the nobility, and the Townshends undoubtedly had, and continued to have, noble connections (Moreton, Townshends [n. 5 above], pp. 10-19, 23-27, 45-49, 80).

'06 Compare J. R. Maddicott, "Parliament and the Constituencies, 1272-1377," in The English Parliament in the Middle Ages, ed. R. G. Davies and J. H. Denton (Man- chester, 1981), p. 86: "By the 1370s parliament had become the chief intermediary between the crown and its subjects." This can only have been true for matters affecting the whole kingdom, not for local everyday issues, for which the nobility would have been the channel of communication (except, of course, in areas where the major noble was the king).

exceptional nature of all the shires dominated wholly or in part by the crown's hereditary lands, where king and lord, public and private authority, were one, which after 1399 is rather a lot.'07

A survey of the published literature on the gentry county commu- nity in medieval England is thus heavily inconclusive. We know now that there were complex relationships among the gentry, some of them of a very localized kind. We do not know that there was a county community, nor have we yet any parameters with which we might set about defining what it might be. As with many of the early modern studies, an a priori acceptance sf the existence of a community, an overconcentration on the greater gentry, and reluctance to consider not only other types of identity, but also the incorporation of the county within the body politic, have left the subject with more ques- tions than answers. Moreover, in most local studies, whether early modern or medieval, the ties that bound the gentry to each other and to the locality have been treated impressionistically and not at any great length.lo8 If we are in search of identities, we should have both a more precise and a more open-ended sense of what we are looking for and more systematic means of searching it out.

In reacting against the model of harmonious unchanging communi- ties, social scientists have been giving a lot of attention to network analysis, and historians wishing to escape from the tyranny of the structural-functionalist community may be able to exploit their treat- ment of networks. Originally these were seen to be the dynamic ele- ments of a society, within the interstices of what social scientists call "groups," that is the more formally institutionalized elements in soci- eties, such as family structures and permanent institution^.'^^ This it-

'07 J. R. Maddicott, Thomas of Lancaster, 1307-1322: A Study in the Reign of Edward II (Oxford, 1970), pp. 9-11; G. A. Holmes, The Estates of the Higher Nobility in Fourteenth-Centu~~

England (Cambridge, 1957), pp. 24-25. This exceptional circum- stance is central to Helen Castor's thesis (Duchy of Lancaster, passim, esp, chap. 1).

'08 Fletcher, County Community (n. 3 above), chap. 2; Underdown, Somerset (n. 3 above), p. 20; MacCulloch, Suffolk and the Tudors (n. 3 above), chap. 3 (although sophisticated in conceptual approach); Holmes, Lincolnshire (n. 1 above), pp. 76-77; Clark, English Provincial Society (n. 60 above), pp. 122-24; Everitt, Change in the Provinces (n. 2 above), pp. 26-27; Morrill, Cheshire (n. 3 above), pp. 15-16; Everitt, Kent (n. 2 above), pp. 41-43; Wright, Derbyshire, pp. 56-59 and chap. 5; Bennett, Community, Class and Careerism (n. 5 above), chap. 2; Pollard, North-Eastern England

(n. 5 above), pp. 109-13; Payling, Political Society (n. 5 above), pp. 83-85; Saul, Scenes ,from Provincial Life, pp. 61-65.

'09 J. Boissevain, "Preface," in Network Analysis: Studies in Human Interaction, ed. J. Boissevain and J. C. Mitchell (The Hague and Paris, 1973), pp. vii-xii; J. C. Mitchell, "Networks, Norms and Institutions," in ibid., pp. 15-25; A. Blok, "Coalitions in Sicilian Peasant Society," in ibid., pp. 151-65; Cohen, Symbolic Constrllction (n. 8 above), pp. 71-72; Boissevain, Friends of Friends (n. 56 above), chap. 1; Wright, "Im- age and Analysis" (n. 8 above), pp. 205-1 1; J. Scott, Social Network Analysis: A Hand- book (London, 1991), pp. 27-33; P. M. Blau, "Structural Sociology and Network Analy-

self makes them fruitful objects of investigation for a historian, who is above all concerned with changes in time, especially since the "com- munity" model has inhibited a dynamic approach. Network analysis concerns itself with those "communities of the mind" which are funda- mental to the exploration of identities. In this respect, the very scope of our inquiry has been beautifully defined by a practitioner: "Man is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has We are trying to find and describe these webs. Network analysis has now become big theoretical and mathematical business, but historians need not be too concerned with most of this. Our information is too haphazard for us to want to generate a spurious mathematical preci- sion, and much of the mathematics associated with network analysis is no more than diagrammatic expression for mathematicians who are uneasy with words."' While some diagrams can be useful, historians, who can cope with words but are often mathematically illiterate, are advised on the whole to stick with what they know.

Where the theory of networks can help is in focusing the questions to be asked and the means of asking. The most straightforward is evaluating the relative importance of horizontal and vertical links, a vital question when we are looking at the nature of local power structures and local authority, especially in relation to the relative importance of the nobility.ll2 Among the less obvious are defining the boundaries of networks, evaluating their density (the degree of inter- connectedness among an individual's network), distinguishing between the "effective" and the "extended" network, examining the expecta- tions of either side in the relationship, and looking at the role of "bro- ker~.""~ Now that network analysts are beginning to include the

sis: An Overview," in Social Structure and Network Analysis, ed. P. V. Marsden and

N. Lin (Beverly Hills, Calif., 1982), pp. 273-79; Macfarlane, "History, Anthropology and Communities" (n. 8 above), pp. 634-38; B. Wellman, "Structural Analysis: From Method and Metaphor to Theory and Substance," in Social Structures: A Networks Approach, ed. B. Wellman and S. D. Berkowitz (Cambridge, 1988), pp. 21-22, 47-48;

E. I&.Wolf, "Kinship, Friendship and Patron-Client Relations in Complex Societies," in The Social Anthropology of Complex Societies, ed. M. Banton (London, 1966), pp. 1-22.

'lo Clifford Geertz, quoted in Cohen, Symbolic Construction, p. 17. See similarly Mitchell, "Networks, Norms and Institutions," pp. 27-29: much of the significance of a relationship depends on how the actors construe the relationship.

"I For a beginner's guide to techniques, see Scott, Social Network Analysis. "2 Wright, Derbyshire (n. 5 above), p. 65; Payling, Political Society, p. 86. "'Cohen, Symbolic Construction, p. 12; Scott, Social Net~~orkAnalysis,

pp. 56-83: it is highly germane to the problem addressed in this article that network analysts have become very conscious of the dangers of assuming both the boundaries of localities and the degree of communalism within them (ibid., p. 57); Boissevain, Friends of Friends,

"groups," or structural and institutional arrangements, themselves, in their work, historians need to consider whether connections like acting on the same commission constitute valid measures of ass~ciation."~ A subset of structural/institutional relationships involving what are called "agentsH-hairdressers or office cleaners, for example-has been subsumed into a category, including personal ties as well, known as "weak ties." These are the relationships less central to a person's experience which may be important in connecting him or her to other networks: according to this theory, the denser a network, the fewer weak ties it generates and therefore the fewer possibilities of extending connections into other networks.'15 We must decide whether "agen- cies," such as creditors and debtors, are significant relationships, while we can use the concept of the "weak tie" more generally to show the interconnectedness of groupings.

While we can exploit these techniques, they will not of themselves answer our questions unless they are placed in the right context. As Boissevain, one of the earlier proponents of networks, said, a contact does not mean a c~mmunity."~

If we are looking for "communities of the mind," then we must examine relationships that would bring gentry together, since, unlike villagers, they did not live in close proximity, and we must look particularly at those relationships that required strong levels of mutual trust. It is also true that relationships in this period were more multiplex than those that sociologists study in the developed world, where spheres of action are more specialized, and historians must be very clear in their minds about what kind of ties had real meaning at this time."' Some attempt at this has already been

chaps. 2, 3, 6, and 8; H. Aldrich, "The Origins and Persistence of Social Networks: A Commentary," in Marsden and Lin, eds., Social Structure and Network Analysis, pp. 286-88; M. Noble, "Social Network: Its Use as a Conceptual Framework in Family Analysis," in Boissevain and Mitchell, eds., Network Analysis, p. 5; R. V. Gould, "Power and Social Structure in Community Elites," Social Forces 68 (1989): 531-52.

Scott, Social Network Analysis, pp. 33-37; Mitchell, "Networks, Norms and Institutions," p. 34.

Scott, Social Network Analysis, pp. 35-36; Cohen, Symbolic Construction, pp. 33-37; Mitchell, "Networks, Norms and Institutions," p. 34; M. S. Granovetter, "The Strength of Weak Ties," American Journal of Sociology 78 (1973): 1360-80, "The Strength of Weak Ties: A Network Theory Revisited," in Marsden and Lin, eds., Social Structure and Network Analysis, pp. 122, 130; M. B. Adelman, M. R. Parks, and T. L. Albrecht, "Beyond Close Relationships: Support in Weak Ties," in Communicating Social Support, ed. T. L. Albrecht and M. Adelman (Newbury Park, Calif., 1987), pp. 126-47.

Boissevain, Friends of Friends, p. 38.

For "simplex" and "multiplex," see Cohen, Symbolic Construction, p. 29; Bois- sevain, Friends of Friends, p. 45. Note the separation of family and political ties made in G. A. Banck, "Network Analysis and Social Theory: Some Remarks," in Boissevain and Mitchell, eds., Network Analysis, pp. 40-43, which is certainly inapposite for this period.

made by the present author who gave priority to relationships affecting the family-marriage primarily, but also wills-and those (including marriage, wills, dealings with the crown, and appearances as parties to cases in the legal records) which concerned the property. All these may include relationships that would come under the heading of "weak ties" of an "agency" type, most notably legal services but also credit arrangements. Then there are the relationships with crown and nobil- ity, which may include both relationships centering around institutions and more personal ones. In this study, grants from the crown, private office on the crown estates, and service in the royal household were accounted significant relationships. Significant ties with the nobility surface in the records concerning gentry family and property, but they are also revealed in service in peacetime, in some forms of wartime service, and in a wide variety of administrative, judicial, and private records referring to the nobility themselves."' In isolating the relation- ships to be deemed significant, one has of course to make some assumptions about attitudes among the gentry, and in this instance an attempt was made to deduce attitudes in the preceding section of the work.

Although most students of the late medieval gentry use this meth- odology,"' even if not usually explicitly or on a very large or system- atic scale, the validity of treating the very impersonal records of feoffees and witness lists as evidence of trust and interconnectedness needs to be established. For example, it can be argued against it that wit- nesses were not always present when deeds were drawn up or that potential opponents of a settlement, rather than trusted friends, might be included among the people involved in it because this would oblige them later to uphold the deed.Iz0 However, in the latter case, it is normally family members or kin who are most likely to be included for this reason, and this is only part of a wider problem in evaluating the significance of kinship ties, since they are the ones that could lead most obviously to either close trust or acute di~harmony.'~'


Carpenter, Locality and Polity (n. 19 above), p. 206 and chap. 9, esp. pp. 291-95; Wright, Derbyshire, pp. 61-62. Also Carpenter, "Duke of Clarence" (n. 68 above),

p. 24.

]I9 Wright, Derbysllire, pp. 54-55; Bennett, Community, Class and Careerism (n. 5 above), pp. 24-26, 31-33; Pollard, North-Eastern England (n. 5 above), pp. 110-13; Walker, Lancastrian Afjnity (n. 64 above), pp. 147-48; Payling, Political Society (n. 5 above), pp. 83-86; Moreton, Townshends (n. 5 above), pp. 23-27; Saul, Scenes ,from Provincial Life (n. 19 above), pp. 62-63.

Clayton, Administration of Chester (n. 13 above), p. 144; Carpenter, Locality and Polity, p. 295.

12' Carpenter, Locality and Polity, pp. 311-12. On the dangers of reading political alliances into kinship ties, see J. C. Holt, The Northerners: A Study in the Reign of King John (Cambridge, 1961), pp. 66-69.

witnesses were present or not is barely relevant. Their job was to validate a transaction if it was questioned subsequently, and it must therefore be true that they were well enough known to the parties in the deed to be trusted to do so, that is, as long as they are clearly included as private associates rather than as official^.'^^ In fact, we do not need to speculate about the importance attached to these relation- ships, as it is made abundantly clear in the privileged information we can obtain from records that give us an insight into what was going on behind the scenes of formal records. So persuasive is the evidence of the primacy of the personal connection that one is tempted to reduce all formal relationships in this period-including leases, dealings with public officers, debt and credit-to the level of the personal network.12' It would be unwise to assume that nothing was ever done for routine or institutional reasons but unnecessary to deny the deep personal exigencies that must lie behind the protection of things as fundamental to these people as family and property.'24 Once these decisions have been made, the data have to be collected and analyzed. As this article has repeatedly stressed, impressionistic surveys con- fined to a small number of the gentry are not enough. Coverage must be, as far as possible, both comprehensive and systematic. This is a time-consuming and difficult process, and the data can easily become unmanageable. The obvious answer is the computer, and an example is offered here to show what may be achieved by this means.

This computer study of networks is part of a project to establish methods for collecting and sorting on computer material concerning the medieval gentry. Staffordshire was chosen for the pilot studies simply because, thanks to the William Salt Society, so much material concerning the Staffordshire gentry is in print. In this instance, a pro- gram has been created to list the associates of members of the Stafford- shire gentry under a variety of headings. It should be emphasized that this network study is still in its relatively early stages as far as collec- tion of information is concerned, which limits both what can be offered here and the conclusions that may be drawn. Since the fullest evidence so far has come from the Chetwynd cartulary, what follows is based on the personal network of Philip Chetwynd of Ingestre near Stafford in central Staffordshire (died 1307).'25

"'Compare the inclusion of palatinate officials in Cheshire deeds (Clayton, Administration of Chester, p. 144).

Carpenter, Locality and Polity, pp. 284-85.

Summarized in Carpenter, Locality and Polity, chap. 7.

The sources used for the following analysis are Collections for a History of Staffordshire, ed. William Salt Archaeological Society (1880-) (hereafter cited as Collections), o.s., vol. 6, pt. 1 (Extracts from the Plea Rolls of the Reign of Edward I), vol. 7 (Extracts from the Plea Rolls of the Reign of Edward 10,vol. 8 (A Chartulary of the

To begin with, Chetwynd's personal network has been reconstructed. This was done by listing Chetwynd's own associates and then listing the associates of all these until shortly after Chetwynd's death. What emerges is that this was a dense network, although it should be remembered that the heavy reliance on Chetwynd's own deeds will exaggerate this aspect: it might look rather different with more instances of Chetwynd acting for others and greater use of gov- ernmental records, which would probably widen the geographical fo- cus of the network. The density can be shown in two ways. First, in almost every case, the overwhelming preponderance of links of Chetwynd's associates was with other members of the network. Sec- ond, if we take the shared ties of the four men who acted most often with Chetwynd-William Mere, Roger Puleston, and Henry Verdun (each five times) and William Stafford (seven times)-every one of their nine common associates was part of Chetwynd's network. The reason for this is that so far these four men appear together on Chet- wynd deeds only. This may distort the picture but, were further re- search to show that it reflected the reality, that would give us important information about Chetwynd's pivotal position in bringing these men together.

These are Chetwynd's strong ties. If we now look at his weak ties-defined as those who have so far been linked with him once only-we find that, contrary to the expectations from the work of social scientists, they are mostly less productive of wider connections than the strong ones. Whereas, for instance, Roger Puleston extends Chetwynd's links to the northwest of the county and to the neighboring county of Cheshire, and Stafford's to Tatemonselow Hundred in the north and the neighboring parts of Derbyshire, most of the men with whom Chetwynd had limited ties do not seem to have had any ex- tended networks of their own. Again, this may be a function of the evidence collected so far; examination of a broader range of records could reveal more complex linkages through "weak ties." However,

Priory of St Thomas the Martyr, near Stafford), vol. 9 (Extracts from the Plea Rolls of the Reign of Edward 11), vol. 10 (Extracts from the Plea Rolls oj'the Reign of Edward 11), vol. 12 (The Chetrr~ynd Chartulary), vol. 16 (The Rydeware Chartulary), n.s., vol. 6, pt. 2 (A History of the Family of Wrottesley of Wrottesley, co. Stafford), vol. 7 (An Account of the Family of Okeover, of Okeover, co. Staffurd), vol. 1921 (Calendar of the Manuscripts in the William Salt Library, Stafford); C. Moor, Knights of Edward I, Harleian Society, 5 vols. (1929-32); "Nomina Villarum," published in Inquisitions and Assessments concerning Feudal Aids, 1284-1431 (London, 1908), 5:ll-17 (hereafter cited as Feudal Aids): unless otherwise indicated, all references to lands and offices come from these last two. Most of the evidence for the time of Philip is of parties and witnesses to settlements.

it could reflect the real situation. The essence of "weak ties" is that they are casual acquaintanceships through which people may, for ex- ample, hear about jobs which they would otherwise not know about. The sort of relationships we are dealing with among the gentry required too much trust to be casual. It may be that links into other networks could only be provided under normal circumstances by men who were well-known to both networks, though there could be other ways of establishing trust, for example through a noble connected with both.

On the evidence so far, Chetwynd's network seems to have been fairly localized, although not entirely so. William Stafford, the central figure, came from Sandon, a few miles from Ingestre, and there were others from neighboring villages like Tixall and Walton, but there were also more distant Staffordshire connections, for example, with Alton and Hamstall Ridware to the east, Patshull to the southwest, and Cres- well and Tittensor to the north. Several of the deeds are to the benefit of the Priory of Saint Thomas in Stafford, so a degree of localization in transactions in which both parties came from the same area would be expected. Three of Chetwynd's most frequent associates-Mere, Stafford, and Puleston-lived within about ten miles of 1nge~tre.l~~ Again, a broader range of documents might change this picture.

We can also examine the structure of the group in relation to kinship and to social status. The kinship element in the group is evi- dent. Three other Chetwynds acted with Philip, and the large role in his affairs taken by the Pulestons is no doubt connected to the fact that he was married to a Puleston daughter. At least one of his asso- ciates, William Bagot of Patshull, may well have come through the Mit- tons, whose heiress was Philip's mother; Patshull was much closer to the village of Mitton than to Ingestre, and Bagot had acted for Philip's Mitton grandfather in a transaction to the benefit of Stafford Pri~ry."~ More investigation would almost certainly reveal more kinship links, but it would also doubtless emphasize, as the ties with the Pulestons show, the close interconnection of ties of neighborhood and of kin.'28

Chetwynd himself was the son of a knight, although he may not have been a knight himself, and at least fourteen of his twenty-nine known associates were knights. Without further investigation of the tenurial position of these fourteen, this tells us little more than that

126 It has proved difficult to trace Henry Verdun, the fourth close associate. He may be a cadet of the Verduns of Alton, Staffordshire (G. E. C. White and G. H. White, eds., The Complete Peerage [London, 19591, 12, pt. 2:30-31; Gross, "King's Lordship"

[n. 30 above], pp. 30-31). 12' Collections, o.s., 12:276. '28 Compare Carpenter, Locality and Polity (n. 19 above), pp. 311-12.

they were all likely to have owned two manors or more, but it is evident that several owned land in other parts of ~ng1and.I~' Stafford had sev- eral Staffordshire manors and was a regular officer in the county; Mere, on the other hand, another frequent associate, is listed in the Nomina Villarum as owning one Staffordshire manor only, although he did have land in Lincolnshire and he too was a local officer. Even with a fairly cursory investigation, almost all Chetwynd's untitled asso- ciates seem to have owned at least one manor. It is not evident that the nonknightly associates resided as a group closer to Chetwynd's immediate locality than the knights, although one might well expect that, with the exception of lawyers and men of business, the lower the status of the associate, the more local the connection is likely to be.I3O

The element most notably missing from Chetwynd's network is any of the nobility. However, before jumping to conclusions about a "gentry community," we should note a number of things. First, the major noble landowners around Ingestre, and the Chetwynds' feudal lord there, were the barons of Stafford, and for half of Philip's tenure of the inheritance there was no adult lord of Stafford. Second, the other major local landowner was an ecclesiastical lord, the bishop of Lichfield.I3' Moreover, research for this project into military and other service, which might uncover ties with the nobility, has barely begun. There are indications that these existed. In 1313, Stafford, Mere, and Bagot, of Chetwynd's circle, are found acting with John Lord Somery, a local lord, for another, Ralph Lord Basset of Drayton. Under Edward 11, when the legal records are more revealing, Philip's son, another Philip, seems to have become embroiled in the upheavals of the early 1320s, along with several of his father's associates or their successors. Some of these, including, notably, William Stafford, were involved with Thomas of Lancaster, the greatest nobleman in the county.132

D. A. Carpenter, "Was There a Crisis of the Knightly Class in the Thirteenth Century? The Oxfordshire Evidence," English Historical Review 95 (1981): 741-42. The editor of the Chetwynd cartulary suggests Philip was knighted, but he is not named a knight in any of these deeds, while his father is, and he does not feature in Moor's list (Collections, o.s., 12:250).

13' Carpenter, Locality and Polity, pp. 335-36, 344; Moreton, Townshends, p. 26.

"' The Complete Peerage, vol. 12, pt. 1, ed. G. E. C. White and G. H. White (London, 1953), pp. 172-73; Feudal Aids, 5:l-8; William Salt Library, Stafford, William Salt Original Collection, 33511 ; Gross, "King's Lordship," p. 32.

13' Collections, n.s., 6, pt. 2:69-70; Complete Peerage, 12, pt. 1:114; Feudal Aids, 5:6-10; Calendar, 1317-21 (1903), pp. 227-35, 1313-17 (1898), pp. 21-25; Collections, o.s., 10, pt. 1:67-68; Gross, "King's Lordship," pp. 28-30; Maddicott, Thomas of Lancaster, pp. 9-10,53-54,61, n. 5. The Verduns of Alton were also linked to Lancaster (Gross, "King's Lordship," p. 30 and n. 126 above).

Even with the most cursory research, Philip Barinton, one of Chet- wynd's more frequent associates, can be shown to have served Lan- caster during Chetwynd's lifetime. With research at this stage, it is not yet possible to say anything firm about the political complexion of either the Chetwynds' circle or the part of Staffordshire where they resided. That itself is a warning against coming to too rapid conclusions about the local power of the nobility on inadequate evidence.

We can, however, say something about "brokers" in this net- work. Ideally this should be done by reconstructing a network which encompasses the personal connections of several people rather than through a single person's associates, but there is as yet insufficient density of evidence for this. Even so, the brokers in Chetwynd's per- sonal network can be discovered by counting the number of second- order connections, that is, men linked to Chetwynd at one remove through each of his first-order, or direct, associate^.'^^ On the whole, and as we would expect, the largest number of second-order linkages came through those with the largest number of direct connections of their own, above all Stafford, with a connection of forty-one, of whom fifteen were not linked directly to Chetwynd. But that did not always follow. For instance, Roger Puleston, with twenty-two direct connec- tions, linked Chetwynd to seven men at one remove and William Mere, with twenty-six, to eight; on the other hand, Philip Barinton and Roger Aston, with twenty-one and nineteen connections, respectively, pro- vided only four and two second-order ties. From a different perspec- tive, it can be seen that Chetwynd's firmest second-order connections were with the group around the Audleys of northwest Staffordshire and Cheshire, with whom four of his associates had dealings. Here, as with many of these second-order connections, the evidence is a single deed, and it is obviously unwise to make too much of its signifi- cance, but, given a larger body of evidence, these are promising ave- nues of exploration. They can show which associates were most useful in extending the possible pool of supporters and in which directions it might be extended, politically and geographically. With more evidence, it should be possible to show how the large numbers of men from all over the county and from neighboring counties who acted together under Edward 11, often under violent circumstances, had come together: whether this was primarily through members of the gentry activating more distant connections or through the mobilization

133 Gould, "Power and Social Structure" (n. 113 above), p. 537; see the whole article, pp. 531-52, for approaches to the study of brokers.

of noble affinities. Most probably it was through both, as nobles brought groups together and gentry extended the political reach of the nobility through their own associates.

It cannot be emphasized enough that this study is still in its early stages and that it would be unwise to read too much into the conclu- sions tentatively advanced here. Of greater significance are the meth- ods used: borrowing some of the social scientists' techniques and, simply to make the study easier, the use of the computer. There are many other approaches. Second- and even third-order ties can be ex- amined. There is the "snowballing" method, taking a small group and listing their first-order connections, then listing the connections of these, and so on, until one encounters very few new pe0p1e.l~~

Variants on this can be used to reconstruct networks involving groups rather than individuals. Once one has the names and the possibility through the computer of juggling with them in any number of combinations, the potential for replacing impressionistic conclusions with something more precise is considerable. We may begin to get some reliable an- swers to questions about the relative importance of kin, neighborhood, and political affiliation in the construction of networks; about the social and political position of brokers within and between networks; about the social mixture within networks; about their strength and durability; their geographical boundaries and interlinkages; and the roles played by different kinds of association in different aspects of the gentry's lives. The computer will not be enough; all this will have to be placed firmly in the context of local politics, will indeed be part of the investi- gation of local politics, but, without such rigorous analysis in the study of gentry identification and allegiances, we shall not get beyond bare assertion. At the end of a massive study of Warwickshire landed soci- ety in the fifteenth century, including a chapter of over sixty pages on Warwickshire networks between 1401 and 1450, it was concluded that the author had "done no more than scratch the surface of a complex set of social relationships about which we know very little.""5 This is still entirely true.

What is emerging from analyses of this sort, and from the more skeptical view of the county community among early modern histori- ans, is that we are dealing with a variety of identities, perhaps best depicted as a palimpsest. As is shown by Ann Hughes's quotation of the epitaph for Anthony Lucy, the seventeenth-century Warwickshire knight, a major local figure's identities were both extremely localized

134 Scott, Social Network Analysis (n. 109 above), p. 59
Carpenter, Locality and Polity, p. 621.

and extremely wide-ranging, a fact which brings us back to the dangers of the one-dimensional view.'36 The question is whether any of these identities should have the word "community" attached to it. It is worth pausing to look at the ways "community" was used with regard to the county in late medieval England. Almost all the uses relate to the county when represented in Parliament.13' This is to be expected, since the one regular occasion when the county had to possess the corporate unity implied by the word was when it was being represented to the crown. This was all the more true when the representatives were making decisions, especially about taxation, that bound the rest of the inhabitants in the county. 138 Other examples are equally directly connected to the county's position as a governmental administrative unit directly responsible to the crown or to its answerability as a legal corporate body.I3' In the period up to about 1300, the county's corpo- rate indentity may have been closely linked with the county court, but we must remember that at this time, just before the channels of communication began to multiply, the most obvious regular responsi- bility to the royal government was through this instit~tion.'~~'

There is in fact another way altogether of looking at the idea of the "county community," and that is as something imposed from the outside, rather than as an organic growth from within. It is apparent that the county court itself was primarily a branch of government, rather than a folkmoot, long before the Norman Conquest. Moreover, in much of England the shire itself had been an external imposition. After the Conquest, throughout England, it had then become the

Hughes, "Local History" (n. 5 above), pp. 229, 230-33, 235-36; Williams, "Crown and Counties" (n. 5 above), p. 137; Fletcher, "National and Local Awareness"

    5 above), p. 152, Reform in the Provinces (n. 47 above), p. 364; Wright, Derbyshire
    5 above), pp. 56-59; Pollard, North-Eastern England (n. 5 above), p. 110; Acheson, Gent01 Community (n. 5 above), pp. 81-92, 201-2; Moreton, Townshends (n. 5 above),
    81; Saul, Scenesfiom Provincial Life (n. 19 above), pp. 59-60; Carpenter, Locality and Polity, pp. 320-21, 335-37, 344-45. See also Holt, Northerners (n. 121 above), pp. 69, 74-75; and Rubin, "Small Groups" (n. 5 above), pp. 135-36.

13' See, e.g., Cam, Liberties and Communities (n. 28 above), pp. 233, 234, 236, 242;

S. Reynolds, Kingdoms and Communities in Western E~trope: 900-1300 (Oxford, 1984),

p. 312.

138 J. G. Edwards, "The Plena Potestas of English Parliamentary Representatives," in Historical St~tdies of the English Parliament, ed. E. B. Fryde and E. Miller, 2 vols. (Cambridge, 1970), 1:136-49; G. L. Harriss, King, Parliament and Public Finance in Medieval England to 1369 (Oxford, 1975), passim.

13' For example, Cam, Liberties and Comm~tnities, pp. 164-65; Palmer, County Courts (n. 25 above), p. 295, nn. 122-23; Pollock and Maitland, History of English Law

(n. 28 above), 1534-36, and see the variety of medieval uses of the word given on pp. 494-95.

I4O Maddicott, "County Community" (n. 23 above), pp. 27-28 and references therein. But note the dissent expressed by Prestwich (n. 27 above).

means by which the localities were made responsible to the crown.I4' In the vast expansion of royal government from Henry I1 to Edward 111, the county was used as the means of enforcement. It could be argued that the creation of the county as a powerful local unit, and with it the idea of the county community answerable to the crown, positively overrode localisms, such as local custom and independent juri~diction.'~~

Much of the "identity of gentry with shire" which Saul perceives in the legislation on office holding in the fourteenth century seems to owe much more to the practicalities of ensuring that local officers could be called to account by both local landowners and the crown, as their responsibilities grew so formidably under the combined weight of constant foreign war and demand for peacekeeping at home.14' An even more spectacular growth was to follow in the six- teenth and seventeenth centuries, and perhaps this too is where we should look for much of the expression of community at county level in this period.'44

But by maintaining the governmental perspective, we can also find some inner reality in the county community. Few commentators on the gentry in either medieval or early modern England have consid- ered the role of rhetoric in the evidence from the mouths of the gentry themselves. There is the rhetoric of localism, dealing with national issues in a way which will appeal to local sensibilities. This has particu- larly obvious implications for the Civil War period, but it is there, for example, in the fourteenth century in parliamentary petitions that the sheriff should be a substantial local man, when it seems that that was usually precisely what they were; the exceptions, which often

14' P. Wormald, "Charters, Law and the Settlement of Disputes in Anglo-Saxon England," in The Settlement of Disputes in Early Medieval Europe, ed. W. Davies and

P. Fouracre (Cambridge, 1986), pp. 149-68; Reynolds, Kingdoms and Communities, pp. 224-26; H. R. Lyon, The Governance of Anglo-Saxon England, 500-1087 (London, 1984), pp. 133-37; W. L. Warren, The Governance of Norman and Angevin England: 1086-1272 (London, 1987), pp. 59-63, 8 1-83.

14' Coss, Lordship, Knighthood and Locality (n. 4 above), pp. 2-10; Palmer, County Courts, chap. 10; Warren, Governance, pp. 133-40; A. L. Brown, The Governance of Late Medieval England: 1272-1461 (London, 1989), pp. 116-28; Prestwich, English Politics, pp. 58-59; Harriss, King, Parliament and Public Finance, passim, esp. pt. 2.

'43 Saul, pp. 258-61, also pp. 152-67; endorsed by Payling, Political Society, pp. 157, 184-85, 217. For the increasing amount of government, see Saul, ibid., pp. 133-35, 163; and n. 142 above. Royal rather than local needs may have fostered the role of the county court as a local forum in this period; see pp. 346-49 above and Maddicott, "County Community ," pp. 34-41.

lJ4Hassell Smith, County and Court (n. 3 above), pts. 1-4, esp. chap. 15; Fletcher, Reform in the Provinces, passim.

prompted the petitions, were normally in periods of political crisis.I4' There is also the rhetoric of community as a form of resistance. This is something that social scientists are beginning to work on, and some- thing which should be apparent to all citizens of highly centralized states with homogeneous cultures in the twentieth century; the more centralized they become, the more anxious people are to assert their individuality against the prevailing tide of conformity and direction from the center.146 At this point the rhetoric of resistance will often lead them to call themselves c~rnrnunities.'~~

If we look at the strongest assertions of local solidarity expressed in terms of the shire, in the period from the mid-fourteenth to the mid-seventeenth centuries, they are nearly all a response to a period of intensification of central control, whether by the government of Edward 111, the "thorough" rule of the "eleven years' tyranny" or the Rump Parliament. Early modern county studies are at one in trac- ing growing use of the rhetoric of communitarian localism in reaction to pressure from the Elizabethan and early Stuart government^.'^^ Similarly, the demands for local management of local government in the

14' Cust and Hughes, "Introduction: After Revisionism" (n. 10 above), pp. 13-15; Holmes, "County Community" (n. 5 above), pp. 64-68; Saul, Knights and Esquires, pp. 108-19. Sacks shrewdly notes the probability that local issues will be raised at times of national crisis-even in "Magna Carta" ("Corporate Town" [n. 7 above], p. 70, and see also the comment on local politics on p. 105). There is also the simple human matter of what people are likely to put in letters home, i.e., mainly rather private and parochial matters and expressions of homesickness when they are away: cf. Morrill, Revolt of the Provinces (n. 3 above), pp. 135-37; Everitt, Kent (n. 2 above), p. 44; and Carpenter, Locality and Polity (n. 19 above), p. 8.

'46 Cohen, Symbolic Construction (n. 8 above), p. 35 ("presentation to the outside world"), pp. 101-2, 117, "Belonging: The Experience of Culture," in Cohen, ed., Belonging, Identity and Social Organisation (n. 8 above), pp. 1-3, 8; Strathern, "The Village as an Idea," pp. 247-77; Wright, "Image and Analysis" (n. 8 above), pp. 214-15;

M. Strathern, Kinship at the Core: An Anthropology of Elmdon in North-West Essex in the Nineteen-Sixties (Cambridge, 1981), chap. 3.

14' Many of Fletcher's examples of resistant localism to the Stuart government in Reform in the Provinces (n. 47 above) have strong "nimby" (not in my backyard) overtones, which should be exceedingly familiar in the late twentieth-century world (pp. 364-65).

MacCulloch, Syffolk and the Tudors, p. 125; Clark, English Provincial Society

(n. 60 above), pp. 218-19; Everitt, Change in the Provinces (n. 2 above), p. 47 (although Everitt, in contrast to Clark, writing about the same county in the same period, finds the roots of the development in the county rather than in response to external pressures

[p. 481); Everitt, Kent, passim; Williams, "Crown and Counties" (n. 5 above), pp. 136, 138; Fletcher, "National and Local Awareness" (n. 5 above), pp. 152-54, 169-72; Morrill, Cheshire, pp. 23-30, 331-32, Revolt of the Provinces, p. 14; Fletcher, Reform in the Provinces, pp. 366-67; Hassell Smith, County and Co~trt, pp. 99-101, 161-67; Cust, "Politics and the Electorate" (n. 47 above), pp. 134-67. See also Wright, Derbyshire (n. 5 above), p. 59.

fourteenth and fifteenth centuries are a logical response to the length- ening reach of government within the shire.14' Without further evi- dence, there is no justification for interpreting them as an attempt "to confine the administration and representation of the shire to the greater gentry resident within that shire."'50 If that was their purpose, they failed, unless one is to construe both "greater" and "resident" with a large degree of latitude.I5' In late medieval England, these views are expressed to us in parliamentary petitions, because that is the only way we have access to them in this period, and that in itself confuses the evidence; acting in a context in which they stood for a shire as a corporate entity, and referring to administration that was done through the shire, what other vocabulary than that of the county were they to use? The Paston letters, which for once allow us to hear the gentry speaking in a variety of contexts, are much less singlemindedly redo- lent of issues expressed in terms of the county, although these do of course surface over matters that were specifically related to the county, notably elections.'" We should remember that at this time Parliament was much less central either to government or to response to government than it was to become in the seventeenth century; forced as we are to listen to the late medieval gentry almost exclusively within the confines of Parliament, we are in grave danger of applying to a whole way of life modes of thought that surfaced relatively rarely.

A trenchant criticism of the whole enterprise of community study among social scientists has been that they "put a boundary around everything in a village or a group of farms and called it a community," a comment which, with a small alteration of the wording, would apply

149 Saul, Knights and Esquires, chap. 4. For other instances of parliamentary rheto- ric, see Walker, Lancastrian Afjnity (n. 64 above), pp. 256-60; Carpenter, "Law, Jus- tice and Landowners" (n. 72 above), pp. 226-31; and J. R. Maddicott, "Law and Lordship: Royal Justices as Retainers in Thirteenth- and Fourteenth-Century England," Past and Present, no. 4, suppl. (1978), pp. 42-71. Comments and complaints expressed in the county court, where M.P.s were elected, can be seen as the quid pro quo of Edward 111's use of the county court as a means of communication to get the intensive government necessary for the war done (Maddicott, "County Community," pp. 33-41). Saul, the principal advocate of the "county community" interpretation of parliamentary petitions, seems now to be coming round to the view expressed here (Scenes from Provincial Life [n. 19 above], p. 57).

IS' Payling, Political Society (n. 5 above), p. 217. See also Saul's more recent and more credible thoughts on Commons petitioning on liveries ("The Commons and the Abolition of Badges," Parliamentary Histoiy 9 919901: 302-15, and cf. Saul, Knights and Esquires, as quoted in n. 81 above).

Is'See pp. 348-52 above.

See Virgoe, "County Comn~unity" (n. 5 above), pp. 5-6, for some examples of references to "county" in the Paston letters, although it is not always clear that "coun- try" means "county" in his examples: cf. Carpenter, Loccility and Polity, pp. 347, n. 3.

equally well to many historical studies, especially of the gentry. The same writer suggests that it is not co,mmunities that have been meant at all, but "an arena of social activity" which rests somewhere be- tween the household and the state.15' This seems a much more profit- able way of approaching the whole subject, as far as the gentry are concerned, for this is really what has lain behind all the county studies from the fourteenth to the seventeenth centuries: the pursuit of those structures of power, identity, and interdependence that conditioned the collective response of the localities to national and local govern- ment and politics. If we could be explicit about this, then we could stop wasting time by looking for the chimera of communities. What we do need to explore is identities: how the gentry saw themselves, if possible how others saw them, bearing in mind that identities are multi- ple and changeable. Under certain circumstances, a tie with another family or a more distant part of England could become immensely important even though it had hardly been activated for many years. This should come as no surprise to historians who live in a world where a friendship that dies to an exchange of Christmas cards can be reawakened when, for example, a child needs advice on how to enter a university or a profession.

Questions need to be rephrased so that we ask what sort of rela- tionship and identity mattered and when. With so much delegation of power and so little opportunity for the gentry to meet in the capacity of county representatives, we should not expect the county to have loomed large in the thought of the late medieval gentry. And when the county was a matter of constant concern, notably in the use the gentry made of the legal system, the geography of tenure and therefore of politics would normally ensure that power would be brought to bear on the whole county through an amalgam of power bases in and around it. But there was a whole world of horizontal and vertical relationships at every level of landowning society, from great nobles to very minor gentlemen, which need exploring and whose boundaries, social and geographical, need to be defined. It is more than probable that, as noble authority in the shires waned and the crown's direct influence there grew, and as Parliament increased in importance as a medium for political debate, so the number of occasions on which the county would seem significant to the gentry increased.ls4 When politics broke down in the seventeenth century, responses were organized through

"'Wright, "Image and Analysis," pp. 204-5. This use of "community" seems to be implicit in Hughes, "Local History" (n. 5 above), pp. 229, 232-35. Compare Rubin, "Small Groups," p. 134, on the n~eaninglessness of the term.

154 Carpenter, Locality and Polity, pp. 633-39.

the county, whereas when the same thing had happened in the fifteenth century, it was the forces that could be raised by the nobility that fought the Wars of the Roses. But even in the seventeenth century it is scarcely conceivable that it was solely or always primarily in terms of the county that the gentry defined themselves. Even then, the "county community" should be regarded not as a Platonic reality but as a shorthand device, used most often in times of political conflict, for expressing certain beliefs among some, perhaps not all, of the gen- try about their position and aspirations. '" Medieval historians working in this area have accepted too readily that there was a real county community in the early modern period and that their counties are somehow working toward this.I5' Thus, "community" has been short- hand for a whole series of complex and important issues. Because of the ubiquitous and often unthinking use of the term, these issues have too often been obscured and obfuscated. It is time to abandon the word and to begin some serious investigation of how the gentry saw both themselves and their role within the polity and how others saw them.

IS' Moreton rightly suggests that it "has been presented at a level of conceptual purity" (Townshends [n. 5 above], p. 195).

Saul, Knights and Esquires, pp. 258-62; Wright, Derbyshire, p. 146; Payling, Political Society, pp. 217-18: Carpenter, Loccrlity und Polity (n. 19 above), pp. 648-49; Virgoe, "County Community," pp. 1-4. Payling is, however, almost forced by his evidence to abandon the enterprise (ibid., pp. 86, 216-17) and falls back on the Com- mons' petitions which can be interpreted rather differently (pp. 376-78 above).

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