Who Made Decisions in English Monastic Towns of the 13th — 15th Centuries?
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Who Made Decisions in English Monastic Towns of the 13th — 15th Centuries?
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The article deals with the issue of townspeople’s (that of a small town) involvement in the active political and social life of their town. First of all, there is the problem of the existence of a self-governing urban community in a small town. It is possible to distinguish two interrelated questions there: who exactly belonged to the urban community (whether it included all the inhabitants of a town) and what part of the community’s members, and the town’s inhabitants as well, actually took part in the government of the town and expressed its interests. In addition, there is an attempt in the article to discover those people who came forward, and conveyed, and defended the interests of their town in case when there was no formally formed urban community during the Middle Ages, and to examine if they, in fact, aspired to be the spokesmen for the town or pursued their own interests. As the formation of a self-governing community in town occurred in the course of the struggle against the town’s lord, whether it was the king or any mediate secular or ecclesiastical seigneur, it is these very conflicts that for the first time bring to our notice the evidence of a conscious solidarity and a tentative appearance of some structure that would defend the common interests of the townspeople as a group and would aim to take control over the urban government. The issue is examined with the particular attention to the monastic towns of the south-eastern England, as these towns, being of a small town category, present a wide variety of urban structures at different stages of development, thus allowing us to see the different phases of the urban community development and different levels of townspeople’s involvement in active community life.
medieval town, monastic town, self-governing structures, urban community, medieval England, social history.
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