Normative Documents as a Source on Actual Practices of a Medieval Town (Based on the Borough Archive of Faversham)
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Normative Documents as a Source on Actual Practices of a Medieval Town (Based on the Borough Archive of Faversham)
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Anna Anisimova 
Affiliation: State Academic University for Humanities. Institute of World History RAS
Address: Russian Federation, Moscow
The article deals with the formation of a collection of normative documents in a medieval town on the example of a small English town of Faversham. During the Middle Ages its inhabitants fought against their seignior – a local abbey – for their autonomy. In addition, this town also was a member of the Corporation of the Cinque Ports. It seems that these circumstances contributed to the production of a significant number of documents. In the borough archive (it is held in Kent History and Library Centre (Maidstone): Fa – Faversham borough records) there are royal charters, a custumal, and town books that represent different levels of the development of local written record. The article analyses the origins and content of these muniments, their correspondence with each other, and also puts forward the issue of a correlation between the information present in the documents and actuality. In addition, it poses several related questions concerning the process of recording the changes in daily practice, the speed and the way it is done, as well as the issues of who is instrumental in bringing it about and who has the authority to sanction these changes. The examination of the charters of Faversham shows that they were meant to establish and protect the rights of the townspeople first against the abbot (their lord) and then against the warden of the Cinque Ports. Similarly, the custumal was focused on the election of urban officials and jurisdiction in town, with a special emphasis on the privileges connected with the membership in the Cinque Ports. Finally, the analysis of the “First town book of Faversham” allows us to see how muniments were later selected in order to create an elaborate compilation. An important issue for any medieval town, such as urban tenure, or burgage, is used to demonstrate the selective nature of the information present in normative documents. The comparison of the norms concerning urban plots, as they are found in these documents, and the information of a detailed rental of 1532 reveals a state of diverging between theory and practice.
medieval town, urban custumal, urban charters, town books, written record, medieval England.
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