4 June 2013

Medieval London records

Just a quick little link here, found via medievalists.net: medievallondon.co.uk. This site was started last year by Robert Ellis and explores the extant textual records from medieval London, in particular the late 14th C record Letter-Book H which contains copies of various documents such as petitions, wills, mayorial proclamations, etc.

There is a nice option which takes you to a random entry. This took me to Entry 7, a mayorial proclamation from November 1375 which is rather preoccupied with poultery sellers (poulterers), but contains some interesting points:

  1. Many of the crimes listed result in imprisonment in jail as well as a fine, even comparatively minor ones. My previous reading had led me to assume that imprisonment was a very rare form of punishment in medieval England and mostly used as a way of holding suspects of major crimes (e.g. treason, murder) until the annual crown court in the area. Maybe the greater use of imprisonment is a London/large city-specific thing?
  2. There is a nice example of one of the many rulings that disprove the old myth about medieval people eating rotten meat. Namely: "and that no-one, of whatever condition that he should be should carry nor put {for sale} any manner of poultry that was rotten or stinking or not acceptable to the body of man, on the loss of the same poultry and upon the judgement of the pillory." (Interestingly, this is the only part of this entry that proscribes the pillory as punishment.)

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