Published online by Cambridge University Press: 06 December 2005
Although it is widely acknowledged that urban oligarchy pre-dominated across medieval England, oligarchy's foundations are only partly known. This article argues that part of oligarchy's success derived from close social interaction between oligarchs and the rest of the citizens. A case study of social networks and arbitration within the city of Wells demonstrates how the elite insinuated themselves into the town's social web, establishing and securing their influence and power. Moreover, such a social role brought the oligarchs together often and helped to define the elite. Such power encouraged a more benevolent form of oligarchy than later prevailed.