Burgage Tenure in Small Towns (on the Example of English Monastic Towns)
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Burgage Tenure in Small Towns (on the Example of English Monastic Towns)
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Anna Anisimova 
Affiliation: Institute of World History. State Academiс University for the Humanities
Address: Russian Federation, Moscow
The article deals with the phenomenon of urban tenure (burgage) based on the materials of monastic towns of medieval England that allows us to consider it at the low level of small towns. It seems that the concept of burgage is especially important for the definition of a town and the conditions under which its inhabitants existed. The article examines the key features of a burgage: terminology used in the sources, physical characteristics (form, content, connections between its separate parts), obligations (rent, works, distraints), legal aspects (right to common pasture, right to alienate a tenement (sale, gift) and its limits, devise, observance of a wife’s rights, a widow’s share, wardship of minors, role of a burgage in obtaining town’s liberty). It seems that the was no exact notion concerning the content of an urban tenement in respect to its form and shape, although it is possible to point out the regular character usually typical for urban plots. As in many other towns, the service of the tenant of a burgage plot consisted of an annual monetary rent that usually constituted a fixed sum. However, due to additional payments (increments) that originated as a result of land transactions, the total payment increased with time. In addition, monastic towns kept longer the obligatory works that they needed to perform for their lords, and some of them continued to perform during the whole period and until the Dissolution. The inhabitants of monastic towns were able to dispose of their lands and messuages quite freely, although there was some control on the part of the monastic lord and, with time, it strengthened in some towns. A simple right to receive relief (in case of a deal) could grow into the full control over land transactions, or, in some occasions, there occurred the change of the nature of tenure in town with transformation from burgage into copyhold. Meanwhile, for many towns the opposite was true, as their dependence on their lords concerning this matter diminished with time. It seems that the change of tenure was closely connected with the transformation of some towns during the 15th – 16th centuries, under the influence of economic situation and the process of Dissolution.
burgage, monastic towns, medieval towns, medieval England, urban history
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