Being anti-social in Medieval England.

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Being anti-social in Medieval England.

Postby Stuart Quayle » Fri Feb 03, 2017 12:50 pm

I have been reading a few books about the Medieval period lately and they appear to suggest that you couldn't opt out of being actively involved in your community/society. The classic example for me is the 'frankpledge' where every man over the age of 12 years must join 9 of his fellow men in becoming a Tything (effectively of group of 10 men promising to protect each other from law-breakers). To fail to join was an offence, or failing to report to the Magistrate any member of your Tything who broke the law, was also an offence.

Was the whole feudal system of everyday life structured as such? i.e. it was impossible to "opt. out" and simply do your own thing. I imagine harvest time would require everyone involved etc.

Keen to hear any other examples where community involvement was a 'must do'. Or did some decide to opt out?

Many thanks in advance



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Re: Being anti-social in Medieval England.

Postby Brother Ranulf » Fri Feb 03, 2017 3:10 pm

It's not possible to generalise, the feudal system was far more complex than most people today can appreciate.

Unfree peasants (by far the largest group) belonged almost entirely to a feudal overlord and he set out exactly what was required of his own workforce - and this was usually completely different to the terms applied in neighbouring manors. Such people were forced to be involved with each other, working not only on their own land but on the demesne lands of the overlord and mutual cooperation was certainly required (and not just at harvest).

Then there are freemen and those granted their freedom by manumission, who could choose where to live, what they did with their lives and how they interacted with others - but within limits. Freemen owed military service, rents, taxes, tithes, church-scot and a host of other financial obligations, so this group was definitely under the cosh. I recently looked into cases of manumission in the 12th century and there seem to be very few recorded, since people at the time recognised that being "free" also meant fending for yourself and struggling with finances.

In towns and cities you had (among more lowly citizens) burgesses, merchants, craftsmen, potters and so on who had a ready market for their wares and the potential to become extremely wealthy. Such people tended to gravitate towards others of their own kind, hence the guilds and other civic bodies. Clearly there was no place for a vintner or pepper merchant who did not belong to the relevant guild.

Then there is the religious aspect, which came under the umbrella of Canon Law. This established standards of morality, good behaviour, common values and neighbourliness - and breaches could be severely punished by the bishops' courts. I have in mind the 12th century case of a certain Agnes, who was charged with being foul-mouthed and talking about people behind their backs; tried and found guilty, she was sentenced to being beaten while walking around the outside of the parish church on six consecutive Sundays. Getting on with others was not optional. Attending church services was part of "good behaviour" and Canon Law only allowed severe illness or frailty to excuse non-attendance at Mass on Sundays - and it would normally be your own local parish church. Any traveller who died while in another parish could not lawfully be buried on the south side of the church with the locals - strangers were restricted to north side burial, along with criminals, suicides and other undesirables.


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Re: Being anti-social in Medieval England.

Postby Stuart Quayle » Fri Feb 03, 2017 3:41 pm

That is absolutely fascinating Brother Ranulf, there are so many different facets and rules governing 'medieval living', it almost sounds like a matter of literal compliance to survive.

Thank you so much for your detailed reply :thumbup:

regards
Stuart



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Re: Being anti-social in Medieval England.

Postby Alan E » Mon Feb 06, 2017 2:19 pm

In many villages, whether land was held as part of a feudal obligation or as free land it would have been 'mixed in' with other's holdings: That is the ownership was not of any particular piece of land but of a number of 'strips' in the fields. The village decided as a community, which fields were going to be planted with what, and the owners of the strips within the fields were responsible for complying on their own strip(s). So the crops, their rotation, when fallow etc were not an individual's choice, the work (and the harvest) for each strip was. You could not 'opt out' of the community decision as your strips were part of the village's system.


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Re: Being anti-social in Medieval England.

Postby Stuart Quayle » Mon Feb 06, 2017 2:24 pm

Many thanks Alan, most interesting.



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Re: Being anti-social in Medieval England.

Postby cal » Wed Feb 08, 2017 10:23 am

Yes, we have a view of it being all a bit free-wheeling and look after number 1, where as the truth is a long way from that.

The tithing thing is very interesting - do you know when that died out?


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Re: Being anti-social in Medieval England.

Postby Brother Ranulf » Wed Feb 08, 2017 12:18 pm

Tithes were the prerogative of the Church of Rome, first established in England under Ethelwulf in 855 and eventually given formal legal validity by the Statute of Westminster in 1285. So the Dissolution of the Monasteries by 1540 (and the end of the Catholic Church at that time) also meant the end of the fixed tithe system to the Church, although it continued in a less formal way as a right claimed by many secular landowners right up to the Tithe Commutation Act of 1836 - but in many cases rents were increased to offset the loss of tithes.


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"Patres nostri et nos hanc insulam in brevi edomuimus in brevi nostris subdidimus legibus, nostris obsequiis mancipavimus" - Walter Espec 1138

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Re: Being anti-social in Medieval England.

Postby Stuart Quayle » Wed Feb 08, 2017 2:31 pm

I might be wrong Brother Ranulf, apologies if so, but is Cal's question to do with 'tything' - the frankpledge (promise of x 10 men to police each others activity) rather than the tithes paid to the Church?

In any case, I would love to know when the frankpledge died out and what immediately replaced it, before a police force existed.

May thanks in anticipation
Stuart



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Re: Being anti-social in Medieval England.

Postby Brother Ranulf » Wed Feb 08, 2017 3:58 pm

My error - too much research into tithes has fuddled my thinking.

This is from Mark Bailey's useful little book "The English Manor 1200 - 1500":

By the fifteenth century it was increasingly common for both leet and manor courts to be amalgamated into one magna curia, a move which partly reflects the decline of the frankpledge system. The disappearance of separate tithings within some frankpledge units became commonplace in the fifteenth century and difficulties in finding capital pledges in some Essex vills forced the adoption of a new system in which landholders were appointed in rotation.


Brother Ranulf



"Patres nostri et nos hanc insulam in brevi edomuimus in brevi nostris subdidimus legibus, nostris obsequiis mancipavimus" - Walter Espec 1138

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Re: Being anti-social in Medieval England.

Postby Stuart Quayle » Fri Feb 10, 2017 2:53 pm

Many thanks Brother Ranulf, I must look out for that book - sounds good. 8-)




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