Skip to main content
×
Home

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

  • MIRIAM MÜLLER (a1)
Abstract
Abstract

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.

Copyright
References
Hide All

Notes

1. Hilton R. H., ‘Feudalism in Europe: Problems for Historical Materialists’, in Hilton R., Class Conflict and the Crisis of Feudalism (London, 1990), pp. 14.; Hilton R. H., Bond Men Made Free (London, 1993), pp. 25–6; Dyer C., Standards of Living in the Later Middle Ages (Cambridge, 1989), pp. 67.

2. For discussions of peasant status in Suffolk in particular see C. Dyer, ‘The Rising of 1381 in Suffolk: Its Origins and Participants’, in Dyer C., Everyday Life in Medieval England (London and New York, 2000 edition); for peasant status more generally see Hatcher J., ‘English Serfdom and Villeinage: Towards a Reassessment’, Past and Present, 90 (1981), 439; Razi Z., ‘Serfdom and Freedom in Medieval England: A Reply to the Revisionists’, in Dyer C., Coss P. and Wickham C., eds, Rodney Hilton's Middle Ages: An Exploration of Historical Themes (Past and Present Supplement 2, Oxford, 2007), pp. 182–7; M. Müller, ‘A Divided Class? Peasants and Peasant Communities in Later Medieval England’, in Dyer et al., Rodney Hilton's Middle Ages, pp. 115–31.

3. The literature on this subject is substantial, see, for example, Dyer C., ‘Memories of Freedom: Attitudes towards Serfdom in England, 1200–1350’, in Bush M. L., ed., Serfdom and Slavery: Studies in Legal Bondage (London, Longman, 1996), pp. 277–95; Cohn S. K., ‘Revolts of the Late Middle Ages and the Peculiarities of the English’, in Goddard R., Langdon J., Müller M., eds, Survival and Discord in Medieval Society (Turnhout, 2010), pp. 269–85; C. Dyer, ‘The Social and Economic Background to the Rural Revolt of 1381’ in Dyer, Everyday Life, pp. 191–220; Müller M., ‘The Aims and Organisation of a Peasant Revolt in Early Fourteenth-Century Wiltshire’, Rural History, 14 (2003), 120.

4. Müller, ‘Aims and Organisation’, p. 13.

5. Dyer, ‘Social and Economic Background’, pp. 191–220.

6. For the concept of the ‘weapons of the weak’ see Scott J. C., The Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance (Yale University Press, 1985). For peasant resistance in this medieval English context see Franklin P., ‘Politics in Manorial Court Rolls: The Tactics, Social Composition and Aims of a pre-1381 Peasant Movement’, in Razi Z. and Smith R., eds, Medieval Society and the Manor Court (Oxford, 1996), pp. 162–98; Razi Z., ‘The Struggles between the Abbots of Halesowen and their Tenants in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries’, in Aston T. H. et al. , eds, Social Relations and Ideas: Essays in Honour of R. H. Hilton (Cambridge, 1983), pp. 151–67; Hargreaves P. V., ‘Seignorial Reaction and Peasant Responses: Worcester Priory and its Peasants after the Black Death’, in Midland History, 24 (1999), 5378; and more recently Larson P. L., Conflict and Compromise in the Late Medieval Countryside: Lords and Peasants in Durham, 1349–1400 (New York and London, 2006), esp. pp. 171–98.

7. Britnell R. H., ‘Feudal Reaction after the Black Death in the Palatinate of Durham’, Past and Present, 128 (1990), 2847; Hargreaves, ‘Seignorial Reaction and Peasant Responses’, 53–78; Dyer, ‘The Social and Economic Background’ pp. 191–220.

8. Franklin, ‘Politics in Manorial Court Rolls’, pp. 162–98; See also Hilton R. H., ‘Peasant Movements in England Before 1381’, in Carus-Wilson E. M., ed., Essays in Economic History, vol. 2 (London, 1962), pp. 7390.

9. Chicago, University of Chicago Library, Sir Nicholas Brown Collection of English Court and Manorial Documents, Manor of Brandon (hereafter UCBC) MS 289, no. 7.

10. UCBC MS 289, no. 19v.; UCBC MS 289, no. 23; UCBC MS 291, no. 1v.

11. UCBC MS 290, no. 2v; UCBC MS 290 no. 5v.

12. UCBC MS 289, no. 4.

13. UCBC MS 291, no. 3.

14. For developments of leasing at Brandon see Müller M., ‘Peasants, Lords and Developments in Leasing in Later Medieval England’, in van Bavel B. and Schofield P., eds, Emergence and Early Development of Lease Holding in the European Countryside during the Middle Ages (CORN series, vol. 10., Brepols, 2009), pp. 155–78.

15. See also, on the decline of labour services due to slightly different circumstances, Larson P. L., Conflict and Compromise in the Late Medieval Countryside: Lords and Peasants in Durham, 1349–1400 (New York and London, 2006), pp. 99101.

16. UCBC MS 291, no. 31 and UCBC MS 291, no. 37.

17. See for example: UCBC MS 292, no. 27; UCBC MS 291, no. 27.

18. See also on this the excellent paper by Poos L. R., ‘The Social Context of Statute of Labourers Enforcement’, in Law and History Review, 1: 1 (Spring 1983), 2752. See also P. L. Larson, Conflict and Compromise, pp. 100–101.

19. UCBC MS 291, no. 51.

20. On mills and rates of multure see Holt R., The Mills of Medieval England (Oxford, 1988), p. 50.

21. See for example Hilton, ‘Feudalism in Europe: Problems for Historical Materialists’, p.4.; For developments in St Albans see R. Faith, ‘The Class Struggle in Fourteenth Century England’, in Samuel R., ed., People's History and Socialist Theory (London, 1981), pp. 53–5.

22. UCBC MS 289, no. 24 actually notes ‘by testimony of the miller’.

23. UCBC MS 291, no. 10.

24. For the mass presentment of cases in 1325 see UCBC MS 290, no. 6.

25. Such confrontations over sheepfolds have also been observed in Mildenhall in the 1340s and may have been a common feature in the area. Dyer, ‘The Rising of 1381 in Suffolk’, pp. 226–7.

26. See for example Hilton, Bond Men Made Free, pp. 137ff.

27. For a brief discussion of this phenomenon see also Müller, ‘A Divided Class?’, p. 127.

28. Rates of amercements may have varied to take account of the wealth of the individuals involved, seigniorial pressure or communal disapproval of the offence.

29. See also, on such questions, B. Alpern Engel, ‘Women, Men and the Languages of Peasant Resistance, 1870–1907’, in Frank S. P. and Steinberg M. D., eds, Cultures in Flux: Lower Class Values, Practices and Resistance in Late Imperial Russia (Chichester, 1994), esp. pp. 3847.

30. See for example UCBC MS 289, no. 3 in 1317.

31. UCBC MS 291, no. 21.

32. UCBC MS 291, no. 22; UCBC MS 291, no. 38; UCBC MS 291, no. 39v.

33. UCBC MS 291, no. 52.

34. UCBC MS 291, no. 57.

35. UCBC MS 291, no. 57.

36. UCBC MS 293, no. 2. See also on poaching Müller M., ‘Food, Hierarchy and Class Conflict’, in Goddard R., Langdon J. and Müller M., eds, Survival and Discord in Medieval Society: Essays in Honour of Christopher Dyer (Belgium, Turnhout Brepols, 2010), esp. pp. 243–5.

37. UCBC MS 291, no. 57.

38. UCBC MS 289, no. 21.

39. See also, on empty tenements or wasted holdings and the peasant's attempts to restructure their tenements, C. Dyer, ‘English Peasant Buildings in the Later Middle Ages (1200–1500)’ in Dyer, Everyday Life, pp. 133–65; Hargreaves, ‘Seignorial Reaction and Peasant Responses’, pp. 53–78.

40. Müller, ‘Peasants, Lords and Developments in Leasing’, pp. 155–78. See also on leasing developments in this period the excellent studies collected by Harvey P. D. A., The Peasant Land Market in Medieval England (Oxford, 1984).

41. See Hilton, Bond Men Made Free, pp.156–7; Dyer, ‘The Social and Economic Background’.

42. UCBC MS 291, no. 1. For such rent strikes see also Franklin, ‘Politics in Manorial Court Rolls’.

43. UCBC MS 291, no. 1; UCBC MS 289, no. 8; UCBC MS 289, no. 9; UCBC MS 291, no. 3.

44. UCBC MS 292, no. 2.

45. UCBC MS 291, no. 51.

46. UCBC MS 289, no. 24v.; UCBC, MS 291, no.6.

47. UCBC MS 292, no. 5v.

48. See also Dyer, ‘English Peasant Buildings’, pp. 133–65.

49. UCBC MS 291, no. 49v.

50. UCBC MS 291, no. 48. For a detailed discussion of Brandon's Leasing developments and ad firmam cases see Müller, ‘Peasants, Lords and Developments in Leasing’, pp. 155–78.

51. See, for example, on this issue, Brenner R., ‘The Rises and Declines of Serfdom in Medieval and Early Modern Europe’, in Bush M. L., ed., Serfdom and Slavery: Studies in Legal Bondage (London, 1996), pp. 247–76.

52. UCBC MS 291, no. 51.

53. UCBC MS 291, no. 50v.; UCBC MS 292, no. 9.

54. UCBC MS 292, no. 11; UCBC MS 292, no. 10.

55. UCBC MS 291, no. 24.

56. UCBC MS 291, no. 45v.

57. See also, for similar observations, Dyer, ‘Social and Economic Background’, p. 24.

58. UCBC MS 291, no. 22.

59. Britnell, ‘Feudal Reaction after the Black Death’, esp. pp. 37–40.

60. UCBC MS 291, no. 26; UCBC MS 291, no. 29; UCBC MS 291, no. 30.

61. UCBC MS 291, no. 58.

62. UCBC MS 291, no. 43; UCBC MS 291, no. 51; UCBC MS 291, no. 54v.

63. UCBC MS 289, no. 5.

64. UCBC MS 290, no. 6.

65. UCBC MS 289, no. 24v.

66. UCBC MS 289, no. 20.

67. Nichols F. M., translator and editor, Britton: An English Translation and Notes (Washington D.C., 1901), p. 203.

68. Hilton, Bond Men Made Free, pp. 40–41.

69. Dyer, ‘Social and Economic Background’, p. 28.

70. UCBC MS 291, no. 26.

71. UCBC MS 291, no. 1v; UCBC MS 291, no. 5.

72. UCBC MS 292, no.1.

73. UCBC MS 291, no. 57.

74. UCBC MS 292, no. 3v.

75. Myers A. R., ed., English Historical Documents, vol. 4, 13271485 (London, 1969), p. 1004.

76. Pollock F. and Maitland F. W., The History of English Law before the Time of Edward I, vol. 2, second edition (Cambridge, 1898), pp. 149–50.

77. Hilton, Bond Men Made Free, esp. pp. 70–72; Müller, ‘Food, Hierarchy and Class Conflict’, pp. 243–6.

78. See, for a wider discussion of this issue, Archer J. E., By a Flash and a Scare: Incendiarism, Animal Maiming and Poaching in East Anglia 1815–1870 (Oxford, 1990), p. 5. See also Rudé G., Criminal and Victim: Crime and Society in Early Nineteenth-Century England (Oxford, 1985) p. 85.

79. The immense value of these private indictments to the study of the revolt has been revealed in the excellent work by Eiden H., ‘In der Knechtschaft werdet ihr verharren’; Ursachen und Verlauf des Englischen Bauernaufstandes von 1381’, Historische Forschungen, Band 32, (Trier, 1995). See also his ‘Joint Action against “Bad” Lordship: The Peasants’ Revolt in Essex and Norfolk’, in History, 83: 269 (1998), 5–30.

80. These individuals have also been identified as important rebels by Christopher Dyer, who also compiled short biographies of them: ‘The Rising of 1381 in Suffolk: Its Origins and Participants’, esp. pp. 237–8.

81. UCBC MS 282, no. 2v.; UCBC MS 292 no. 3.

82. Dyer, ‘Rising of 1381’, p. 225.

83. UCBC MS 292, no. 24; UCBC MS 292, no. 25.

84. ‘Depositions of John Wrawe’, translated and printed in Dobson R. B., ed., The Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, second edition (Basingstoke and London, 1983), pp. 252–3.

85. Walsingham, ‘Historia Anglicana’, reprinted and translated in Dobson, The Peasants’ Revolt, pp. 244–5. See also, Powell E., The Rising in East Anglia in 1381 (Cambridge 1896), pp. 1213.

86. Powell, Rising in East Anglia, pp. 13–14.

87. Reid A. W., ‘The Rising of 1381 in South-West and Central Norfolk’, in Cornford B., ed., Studies towards a History of the Rising of 1381 in Norfolk (Norfolk, 1984), p. 15.

88. PRO KB 9/166/1 fol. 53.

89. PRO KB 9/166/1 fols. 51 and 53.

90. A. W. Reid, ‘Rising of 1381’, pp. 16–17.

91. PRO KB 9/166/1 fols. 51 and 71.

92. PRO KB 9/166/1 fol. 71.

93. See also Reid, ‘Rising of 1381’, p. 24.

94. Hilton, Bond Men Made Free, pp. 158–60.

95. PRO KB 9/166/1 fols. 53 and 71.

96. PRO KB 9/166/1 fols. 51and 65; PRO KB 27/482 fol. 29; PRO KB 27/484 fol. 28 verso.

97. PRO KB 9/166/1 fol. 65; PRO CP40/485 fol. 421v.

98. PRO KB 27/482 fol. 29; PRO KB 27/484 fol. 28 verso.

99. Reid, ‘Rising of 1381’, p. 24.

100. PRO KB 9/166/1 fol. 46.

101. PRO CP 40/485, fol. 421 v.; PRO KB 27/484, fol. 28v., PRO KB 9/166/1 fol. 46.

102. PRO KB 9/166/1 fol. 71.

103. PRO KB 27/489 fol. 32 v.; PRO KB 27/493 fol. 13.

104. For information on Holdych see Reid, ‘Rising of 1381’, pp.16, 24.

105. Eiden, ‘In der Knechtschaft werdet ihr verharren’, p. 325; Reid, ‘Rising of 1381’, p. 29.

106. Eiden, ‘In der Knechtschaft werdet ihr verharren’, p. 325; Reid, ‘Rising of 1381’, p.18.

107. Eiden, ‘In der Knechtschaft werdet ihr verharren’, p. 325; Reid, ‘Rising of 1381’, p. 29.

108. PRO KB 9/166/1 fol. 71.

109. PRO KB 9/166/1, fols. 49 and 47; Eiden, ‘In der Knechtschaft werdet ihr verharren’, p. 325.

110. Reid, ‘Rising of 1381’, p. 24.

111. Eiden, ‘In der Knechtschaft werdet ihr verharren’, p. 320.

112. Eiden, ‘In der Knechtschaft werdet ihr verharren’, p. 321.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Rural History
  • ISSN: 0956-7933
  • EISSN: 1474-0656
  • URL: /core/journals/rural-history
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 20
Total number of PDF views: 111 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 243 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 19th November 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.