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Conflict and Revolt: The Bishop of Ely and his Peasants at the Manor of Brandon in Suffolk c. 1300-81


Using the evidence of manorial court records, this paper examines in detail the developments in the relationship between the Bishop of Ely and his peasants at the manor of Brandon leading up to the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. Increasing levels of discontent among the peasantry can be observed across the period. This is expressed in rising reported numbers of various cases in the court rolls, such as non-compliance with the court, labour refusals, trespasses and cases of foot-dragging. This rising level of conflict, some open, some more hidden, can be seen as evidence both for increasing seigniorial concern to assert various jurisdictional rights, and the peasants’ increasing willingness to test the boundaries of seigniorial dominion, leading eventually to their participation in the Rising in East Anglia.

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J. Hatcher , ‘English Serfdom and Villeinage: Towards a Reassessment’, Past and Present, 90 (1981), 439

S. K. Cohn , ‘Revolts of the Late Middle Ages and the Peculiarities of the English’, in R. Goddard , J. Langdon , M. Müller , eds, Survival and Discord in Medieval Society (Turnhout, 2010), pp. 269–85

P. Franklin , ‘Politics in Manorial Court Rolls: The Tactics, Social Composition and Aims of a pre-1381 Peasant Movement’, in Z. Razi and R. Smith , eds, Medieval Society and the Manor Court (Oxford, 1996), pp. 162–98

P. V. Hargreaves , ‘Seignorial Reaction and Peasant Responses: Worcester Priory and its Peasants after the Black Death’, in Midland History, 24 (1999), 5378

R. H. Britnell , ‘Feudal Reaction after the Black Death in the Palatinate of Durham’, Past and Present, 128 (1990), 2847

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Rural History
  • ISSN: 0956-7933
  • EISSN: 1474-0656
  • URL: /core/journals/rural-history
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