Liberties & Communities in Medieval England: Collected Studies in Local Administration and Topography

Liberties & Communities in Medieval England: Collected Studies in Local Administration and Topography

Liberties & Communities in Medieval England: Collected Studies in Local Administration and Topography

Liberties & Communities in Medieval England: Collected Studies in Local Administration and Topography

Excerpt

The sixteen studies in local history here gathered together may seem to the reader a somewhat miscellaneous collection with a distinctly antiquarian tinge. They are, for the writer, bound together by the belief that medieval focal government can only be understood through much short range study of particular places and institutions. An inveterate dislike of scrapping the obsolete or obsolescent has left in this country an enticing variety of survivals, affording innumerable clues for the investigator to follow up, and though he cannot expect the reader to share with him all the excitement of the chase, he may at least defend his choice both of subject and of technique as being very closely associated with major historical and even political issues.

The history of local institutions has suffered at times from the unequal knowledge and ill-balanced zeal of the antiquary, but he is awake to one great truth that historians do not always keep in view. He starts from a present-day objective reality, whether building boundary, name or custom; he holds the live end of an unbroken thread running back into the past that he is exploring. He takes for granted the continuity of history, and it is in that continuity that not only the fascination but the justification of such researches as the following lies. The discovery in the Parks Road at Oxford of a stone inscribed 'Here endeth Northgate Hundred' may start a train of inquiries running back past Robert Plot and Anthony Wood to the Pipe Rolls of Henry II and the charters of Ethelred the Unready. The watercourses of Cambridge lead back to the days when 'East Angle and Mercian glared at each other across Magdalene Bridge', and Etheldreda's sister sent her men up the Granta to find a worthy sarcophatus for the Saint's relics among the remains of the little ruined chester, the line of whose earthworks can be traced to-day on Mount Pleasant. The name of Chequers Farm at Stokenchurch records that stage in our national history when government office was hereditary and government salaries were paid in land; while that of the Shire . . .

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