It is not often that one finds three other scholars working on the same geographical area in the same period; I am deeply indebted to them not only for the exchange of information, but also for the many informal discussions of Durham and common problems we have faced. Closure theory, articulated by Parkin but reaching back to Weber, describes how different groups in society close ranks either to defend or to achieve access to resources Rigby 9. His work inspired this study, and he has continued to be a friend and mentor. For the peasantry, Levett thought a death toll of over one third was too high, based on her research on the tenants of St. It is all well and good to discuss theory, but the theory needs to be tested in a specific context, in this instance, the bishopric and Priory estates in Durham. Moreover, speaking constantly of conflict implies that the aims, needs, and ideas of lords and peasants were fundamentally and irreconcilably different. Holding the office was not always a pleasant situation.
Even free peasants could be restricted because of their tenure, as was the case with the customary tenants in Durham. Tenants struggled against each other far more often than against their lord. The pestilence showed little regard for wealth, status, gender, or age in Durham; the Priory lists reveal that the hand of death lay upon all types of tenant, men and women, from the wealthiest tenants to the poorest cottagers. The cost of the tourns could be recouped through much of the fourteenth century; in 1357, the Priory halmotes brought in £52 Bur. It is difficult to assign motivations when working from dry administrative and legal records, yet that is what must be done, if the myriad moves and countermoves are to have any sort of coherent meaning.
Lords and Peasants, Estates and Villages 2. The changes in religion and economy may have been typical of a wider trend, but not necessarily so. When Gilbert Spurnhare made his decisions, did he do so as a male, or as a village officer in Norton, or just as a regular villager? Olson marshals evidence to support her claims, and her arguments for the recovery of peasant voices is strong. Inheritance patterns appear to be similar to those observed elsewhere, exhibiting no unusual practices. In the formulation and writing of this book I have incurred many debts. The first criterion is meant to distinguish the English peasant from other agricultural workers, whether slaves, sharecroppers, or agrarian capitalists; but it also is meant to evoke the idea that the difference between the peasant and the gentleman was that the latter did not work with his hands, but lived off rents or the labor of others. The records have their drawbacks, but that is true of all records, and in the halmote records particularly Durham offers a plethora of material to be mined.
Some men held the office for a year, or less, while others, such as Gray and Eure, served for extended terms. Although the jurors worked together and had common interests, they quarreled and feuded as well; alliances shifted constantly, and there was no simple demarcation based on wealth or standing. There is only limited information about who took the vacant tenements on either estate. This tendency renders these approaches even more useful, as it provides an additional indicator of changes in lord-peasant relations. However, the scribes of Durham almost never described those tenants as being free in the same way as they identified tenants of free land, who were usually personally free. They performed weekwork and other customary labor.
This is particularly true in times of stress or crisis when people let their masks slip and reveal what they really think. David and Lynda Rollason, P. Several families were among the economic upper class, and their status did not seem to impinge upon their social standing with any regularity. The direction of the community and the actions of other members were very important to medieval peasants, as can be attested by the many social and socio-political crimes recorded in medieval courts. The very transformation of agriculture often is pinned on individuals, in particular the development of the yeoman and then the agricultural capitalist Raftis 1996; Whittle; Macfarlane; Britnell 2004a. The relative balance between harmony and conflict has been debated, and this no doubt shall continue; but it is true that conflict did occur.
While this is partly due to my own fascination with those fields, it is also because scholars working on those subjects possess tools and concepts not readily available for medieval history. However, there clearly were discontinuities, as many English villages and parishes underwent multiple changes that resulted in something new and different. Instead, I am looking at issues of power and negotiation within manorial or peasant society. In the end, English lords were unwilling to take the steps necessary to preserve the older order. Halcrow studied the agricultural operation of the Priory estates, focusing on the operation of the manors and agricultural policy 1949; 1955.
For the bishopric, no halmote books survive from before 1349, but the surviving fourteenth century books cover from 1349 to 1362 and 1388 to 1400, with a few scraps of one roll from 1381. They broke contracts, abandoned employers, stole goods, slew or mutilated animals, and trampled crops. In the 1350s, average agricultural wages rose about twenty percent relative to wages of the 1330s and 1340s, and continued to rise Farmer passim. McIntosh looked at both estate and community over four centuries in the royal manor of Havering 1986; 1991. At stake were control of the community and the control of the individual. The conflict model is most useful in explaining the exceptional bursts of strife, and the use of resistance as a category makes the model more widely applicable; other approaches, such as those by Rigby, expand the range of conflict analysis even further. If they owed anything to the lord, their goods and chattels could be distrained to force payment, while if they owed nothing, the lord summoned them to the next court to defend their right to the land or risk losing the land to someone else.
Peasants migrated, but they did so from community to community, and the attempt by some peasants to separate themselves from the community is an indication of just how important the community was to being a peasant. Although the lord is not totally removed and conflict among the peasants is acknowledged, by and large their characterizations of peasant communities have emphasized smooth relations largely free of seigniorial interference. New methodologies, influenced by feminism, anthropology, and literary studies, for example, or simply adopted from other historical periods, bring fresh approaches as well as call older ideas and interpretations into question. Unlike untouchables, slaves, or early modern serfs, English peasants had some rights and were expected to take part in law and administration in the countryside. I also am grateful to Ustinov College formerly the Graduate Society of Durham University for providing friendly and reasonable accommodations.