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Recession and Recovery: the Economic History of Rural Society in Durham, c.1400-1640

BROWN, ALEXANDER,THOMAS (2012) Recession and Recovery: the Economic History of Rural Society in Durham, c.1400-1640. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This thesis explores how rural society adapted to the fifteenth-century recession, and how this affected the ability of their sixteenth-century counterparts to respond to inflation. It does so through three primary sections: the first explores how the Bishops of Durham and the monks of Durham Cathedral Priory responded differently to the fifteenth-century recession and analyses the subsequently divergent development of their estates. By the seventeenth century, all of the Dean and Chapter’s lands were consolidated holdings on 21-year leases, whereas a confused mixture of copyhold and leasehold land had developed on the bishops’ estate. The second section explores the balance of landed power in the Palatinate of Durham from the late-fourteenth to the mid-seventeenth century amongst the laity. This further explores whether the ‘crisis of the aristocracy’ and the ‘rise of the gentry’ are misnomers more adequately phrased in terms of land usage as the ‘rise of agricultural producers’ and the ‘crisis of rentier landlords’. The final section explores how the tenantry of the above estates survived this period, with the gradual stratification of landed society and the emergence of the yeomanry as a social group. It especially focuses upon how the divergent development of the two ecclesiastical estates impacted upon the opportunities and challenges facing the tenants of Durham. The overall conclusion reached by this thesis is that estate management and institutional constraints were often crucial factors in the transformation of the English countryside: these two neighbouring ecclesiastical estates faced broadly the same problems and yet the composition of their estates diverged significantly across this period. Institutional constraints had a profound effect not only on levels of rent, but also the tenure of holdings and ultimately their relative size; three of the most important factors in the formation of agrarian capitalism.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Medieval Durham, Durham Cathedral Priory, Bishops of Durham, Fifteenth Century Recession, Peasants, Landowners
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > History, Department of
Thesis Date:2012
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:18 Mar 2013 08:40

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