Late Medieval Stamford: A Study of the Town Council 1465–1492
The study of town government is an immensely significant one especially for the Middle Ages. Throughout the centuries which succeeded the Danish invasions, townsmen sought anxiously for the powers to govern themselves. One by one they acquired by charter from king or private lord the various privileges they believed to be essential to their well-being. The highest of these, granted to very few towns before the fifteenth century, was the right of incorporation, whereby the burgesses of a town formed themselves into an undying institution, able to own property, to sue and to be sued. Here was finally achieved the complete exclusion (at least in theory) of all other authorities, especially that of the royal sheriff. This growth of self-government, however, must not be seen as an ‘opting out’ of the government of the realm. Rather it was an ‘opting in’, for the king and his administration now dealt directly with the town itself instead of going through some external official. The central government retained all its powers; it was the local community which increased its powers and with them its duties.
KeywordsFifteenth Century Town Council Town Government Great Corpus Rival Authority
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