Rural Society and Economic Change in County Durham

Rural Society and Economic Change in County Durham

Recession and Recovery, c.1400-1640

A.T. Brown


Boydell Press



A regional study of landed society in the transition between the late medieval and early modern period.
In the middle of the fifteenth century, the economy of north-east England was beset by crises: population was low, production was stagnant and many landowners faced penury. By the end of the sixteenth century, however, the precocious development of the coal industry and high levels of inflation provided opportunities for investment and profit in the Durham countryside.
This book examines the development of agrarian capitalism; estate management; tenure and the land market; social mobility; the gentrification of merchant wealth and the emergence of the yeomanry during this period in the region. It looks at such questions as how the coal industry was affected by the fifteenth-century recession and the effects its rapid expansion had upon landed society; reassesses debates on the rise of the gentry and the "crisis" of the aristocracy; and considers how the wholesale economic changes of this period affected the social structure of late-medieval and early-modern England. Although this period is often seen as a transitional era, this book argues that it needs to be studied as one long agrarian cycle, showing the degree to which patterns of landholding fixed during the fifteenth-century recession affected the distribution of profits between different types of lords and tenants in the sixteenth and early seventeenth century.

A.T. Brown is an Addison Wheeler Fellow at Durham University.

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November 2015
23 line illustrations
304 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
ISBN: 9781783270750
Format: Hardback
Boydell Press
BISAC HIS037010, HIS037020, BUS023000
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Table of Contents

Ecclesiastical Responses to the Fifteenth-Century Recession
Path Dependency on the Ecclesiastical Estates in the Sixteenth Century
The Great Lay Landowners
The Fortunes of the Gentry
The Influx of 'New' Wealth
The Rise of the Church Leaseholder
Diverging Experiences: Yeomen and Smallholders


Brown effectively and usefully 'bridge[s] the gulf' between late medieval and early modern studies, .employing the excellent Durham archives to overcome 'discontinuity in the sources' and illuminate that 'murky, ill documented and under-researched period', the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. ENGLISH HISTORICAL REVIEW

A nuanced, excellently researched and thoroughly grounded economic history of land and tenure. HISTORY

[An] extraordinary achievement. NORTHERN HISTORY

A clear and accessible guide to the wider debates surrounding the rural economy of the later Middle Ages. MEDIEVAL ARCHAEOLOGY

The book distils a great deal of research to make an interesting case explaining important changes in the life and society of rural Durham. HEXHAM LOCAL HISTORY SOCIETY NEWSLETTER

[A] well-researched, clearly structured, uncomplicated and thoughtful study. . . . [A]n admirable and ambitious first monograph from a promising young scholar. EH.NET

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