The aldermen of Norwich, 1461-1509: a study of a civic elite.
Frost, Ruth Huber
University of Cambridge
Faculty of History
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Frost, R. H. (1996). The aldermen of Norwich, 1461-1509: a study of a civic elite. (Doctoral thesis). https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.11595
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This thesis comprises an analysis of the Norwich aldermen who were first elected to that office between 1461 and 1509. The dissertation seeks to further the understanding of the structure and contributions of this civic elite within this prominent medieval English city. Although late medieval Norwich has naturally received a certain amount of attention from recent historians, its comparatively small but very powerful governing body has not yet been analyzed in the way it clearly seems to deserve. This study involves social, economic, political and religious themes. The first chapter investigates the role of the aldermen in the governmental structure of the city; the aldermen's cursus honorum; their exonerations and absence from their duties; and the costs and benefits of office. Chapter Two considers the occupations and trades of the aldermen and examines their influence within Norwich and in England as a whole. The third chapter tackles the elusive subject of wealth and attempts to determine the aldermen's financial status. The fourth chapter is concerned with the real estate holdings of the Norwich aldermen, both in Norwich and beyond. Chapter Five explores the families, households, and acquaintances of the aldermen. Among the various other topics considered here are intermarriage and provisions for wives and children. The final two chapters investigate the religious and charitable practices of the aldermen, considering pious donations, expressions of personal belief, charitable bequests, and guild participation. A study of the aldermen's wills (65 of which survive in their entirety) forms the basis for chapters five through seven. A wide range of original evidence is used for the study. Civic assembly records, court rolls, subsidy records, Yarmouth customs accounts as well as wills comprise the main library of sources. Among others that have been consulted are records of the Guild of St George, royal patent and close rolls, and inquisitions post mortem. Thanks to the abundance of such original records, the aldermen of late medieval Norwich are probably better documented than almost all their counterparts elsewhere in England. One of this thesis' major purposes is to discover whether the conclusions produced by Professor Thrupp in The Merchant Class of Medieval London fifty years ago also apply to the mercantile elite in one of England's major provincial towns. The aldermen of late medieval Norwich tended to be the most affl).Jent lay residents of the town. They were leaders in their crafts and occupations, generous to religious and charitable concerns, and often related to one another by blood or marriage. The aldermen formed a powerful and small elite within the city. While they sometimes benefited from their political involvement in various ways, they also served out of a strong sense of civic duty and pride. This thesis concludes that, under the leadership of the aldermen of 1461-1509, Norwich remained a generally stable city, and the authority of its aldermen was, by and large, recognised and respected by its residents.
This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.11595