Land, Law, and Lordship in Anglo-Norman England

Land, Law, and Lordship in Anglo-Norman England

Land, Law, and Lordship in Anglo-Norman England

Land, Law, and Lordship in Anglo-Norman England


This is an important new interpretation of the development of land law in England during the century after the Norman Conquest. Norman society was based upon land and lordship, and the relative power of lord and vassal was crucial to the control of land. John Hudson exploits a wealth of surviving charter and chronicle evidence and examines the uses to which lords and vassals put their lands, the relationships between them, and the constraints upon them, in an approach which integrates social, political, administrative, and intellectual history.


In any body of law we are likely to find certain ideas and rules that may be described as elementary. Their elementary character consists in this, that we must master them if we are to make any further progress in our study; . . . as regards the law of the feudal time we can hardly do wrong in turning to the law of land tenure as being its most elementary part.

Pollock and Maitland, i. 231

With the venerated exception of Maitland, historians of law have too often seemed to be separated from other historians by their interests, their approach, and even their language. Their insights, therefore, have not always been properly appreciated. This book is a study of Anglo-Norman society, and the working of ideas and power therein, which seeks to unite such insights with the broader approaches and interests of other historians.

In legal terms, this work could be seen as an essay on the early stages of the emergence of Common Law property. Historians of 'property' have generally concentrated on 'real property', in particular land. I have followed this tradition, whilst recognizing its limits. Hence I do not, for example, discuss the relevance of possession of chattels to notions of ownership. Within land law, I concentrate on three areas again central to previous writings, a position they owe partly to their importance in modern definitions of ownership, partly to their historical importance: security of tenure, heritability, and alienability. In these areas, therefore, my intention has been to bring different evidence and new interpretation to an area of established importance.

Certain omissions should be noted. I have concentrated on illuminating seignorial power through land-holding and the working of law. I have sometimes drawn on other evidence in order to modify received views of the honour, but have not attempted a complete political and social reassessment of the history of lordship. For example, I have not made a general analysis of the effect on seignorial power of 'feudal geography', the distribution of fees within the honour. Whilst I have examined the possibility of regional and honorial variation . . .

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