Medieval Merchant Venturers: Collected Studies

By E. M. Carus-Wilson | Go to book overview

VIII
THE AULNAGE ACCOUNTS: A CRITICISM 1

To those who, eager for scientific precision, seek a sound statistical basis for their economics, the following investigations into documents concerning the cloth industry may be of interest.2 Historians have hitherto found a useful ally in the medieval aulnager. For his elaborate accounts of taxes paid on cloth produced for sale seem at first sight to reveal much as to the extent, locality, and organization of what was to become, by the end of the Middle Ages, England's leading manufacture and export. Yet ultimately many of his statements prove to be as barren of information as were the conventional medieval "proofs of age."

Table I gives the accounts rendered by Richard More for 1467-1478 of the total number of cloths of assise aulnaged in Bristol, Wilts, Somerset and Dorset.3. More's methods are of special importance, for from 4 Henry IV to 4 Edward IV, and again from 18 Edward IV, the aulnage was farmed, and accounts of the actual numbers of cloths sealed were not usually returned. The only long series available, therefore, for the fifteenth century is that from 1465-1478, and during this time More was aulnager in Bristol, Wilts, Oxford, and Berks from 1467-1478; in Somerset and Dorset from 1471-1478; and in Worcester, Hants, Gloucester, Hereford, Devon and Cornwall, Surrey and Sussex from 1474-1478. Before 1402 the only accounts useful for comparison, owing to exemptions of kerseys, are a less complete series from 1394-1399. In this table it is evident that exactly the same number of cloths is more than once repeated, and that the

____________________
1
Economic History Review, II, No. 1, 1929.
2
These investigations concerned primarily the West of England industry, and for this reason examples are chiefly drawn thence.
3
P.R.O., Exchequer L.T.R. Enrolled Accounts, Miscellaneous 9. In this and subsequent tables, unless otherwise stated, the year is from Michaelmas to Michaelmas, and the numbers refer to cloths of assize.

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