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Lordship and the urban community : Durham and its overlords, 1250-1540

Margaret Bonney

The city of Durham, although geographically far removed from the centre of political power in England in the later medieval period, was of great strategic and ecclesiastical importance during its early history. It was the seat of the prince bishops, a military headquarters for the defence of the northern borders of England, a centre for pilgrimages to the shrine of St Cuthbert and the principal market town for the region. Yet it has received scant attention from historians, a neglect which this book remedies. After tracing Durham's late tenth-century origins, the book examines the subsequent developments in religious and military building work on the peninsula which accompanied the growth of a successful urban community in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The evidence of hundreds of medieval title deeds and many other sources combined with a study of the landscape reveals the appearance of the town in the later middle ages; its unique site, and the influence this had on the layout of the town; its division into five separate 'boroughs'; and the generally poor standard of its domestic architecture in comparison with the buildings on the peninsula. This section of the book is complemented by the reproduction of all the extant medieval plans for Durham in an appendix, which also includes later maps of the town and several illustrations which help to explain the complex topography. The remainder of the book explores three significant aspects of the relationship between the townsmen and their ecclesiastical overlords - in particular Durham priory, which had extensive property holdings in the town. The financial arrangements between landlords and tenants are analysed, leading to the conclusion that the fifteenth century was a time of difficulty for the priory, marked by falling rent values, the growth of arrears and an increase in the number of vacant holdings. The economy of the town is discussed, and Durham can be seen to have avoided the worst symptoms of late medieval decline because, despite its relatively narrow range of industries and the close regulation of trade by its overlords, it did not rely exclusively on any single commercial activity which might fail. Finally, an examination of the enforcement of law and order through the borough courts demonstrates that the five-fold division of the town was meaningless in legal terms. Furthermore, although at first sight Durham's overlords might seem oppressive, there is little evidence of the townsmen's dissatisfaction with their rule, and none of urban revolt in late medieval Durham.

Сведения об издании: 
Cambridge [etc.] : Cambridge Univ. Press, 2005. - XIV, 307 p.
Тематическое подразделение: 
Исторические науки