The Fifteenth Century 1399-1485

The Fifteenth Century 1399-1485

The Fifteenth Century 1399-1485

The Fifteenth Century 1399-1485

Excerpt

Whoever starts to write the history, of the fifteenth century in England is likely to be impressed more by its deterrents than by its opportunities. The sheer bulk of the material available in the Public Records, the small progress made with private archives, now, however, becoming more accessible, and the need for a revaluation of the literary and chronicle sources are formidable things, to say nothing of the historian's continual problem of understanding the minds of men in a period of contradictions. Yet great advances both in record scholarship and interpretation have come about during the last forty years. People are ceasing to regard the age as the gloomy culmination of those disorders which it was the business of Tudor sovereigns to prevent. 'Morally, intellectually and materially it was an age not of stagnation but of ferment.' The truth of Kingsford's remark is becoming evident.

Naturally since his day, as the exploration of public and private records developed, there has been, on the part of scholars, a concentration on aspects of the period not fully covered by the older monographs or general histories. In the first place the study of the greater families, of the means by which they preserved their inheritances, of their competitive acquisitions of land and property, their connexions with their neighbours and their influence on local administration, is likely to have no small effect upon the central theme of fifteenth-century history. The organized noble household with its council, its domestic organization, and its retained supporters stands as a social element making for order as much as, on occasion, for its opposite. Along these lines the civil wars may begin to appear less as a unique dynastic contest than as a series of episodes characteristic of the rivalries and conflicts between magnate houses of the later middle ages. The greatest of magnates is the duke of Lancaster become king.

In the second place, research in the personnel of parliament has focused attention upon the social composition of the commons' house, their affinities with the lords and with their . . .

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