The lord and his copyholders

H. R. French and R. W. Hoyle

in The Character of English Rural Society

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print April 2007 | ISBN: 9780719051081
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781700716 | DOI:
The lord and his copyholders

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  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)


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The appearance for the first time of resident gentry in villages that had previously lacked them was a widespread phenomenon in the century after 1540 whose implications have barely been considered. These gentry disturbed settled patterns of self-government. As they sought to increase the profitability of their manors, they sometimes alienated their tenants and neighbours, who had formerly enjoyed the first pick of the profits of the manor in the form of cheap leases, under-valued copyholds, and largely unrestricted access to the resources of the manor, including its timber and commons. Incoming lords could also bring with them their own concepts of ideal social behaviour, which might engender another form of conflict within the village. This chapter reviews three areas of contact, and in some cases conflict, between the lords and the tenants. The first section describes the antagonisms prompted by the attempt to remould timber rights to the lord's advantage; the second the lords' intervention in the affairs of individual copyhold families; and the third the attempt to use the court leet to instil moral discipline into the inhabitants of the village. All need to be read against the long and protracted decline of the seigniorial interest in Earls Colne and English villages generally.

Keywords: lords; tenants; conflict; English villages; resident gentry; timber rights; copyhold families; court leet; moral discipline

Chapter.  16140 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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