Ch 05 The End of the Middle Ages

Ch 05 -A Century of Paradox

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THE 15th CENTURY WAS TO SOME A PERIOD OF GENERAL DECLINE, OF RUINED TOWNS AND OF POLITICAL CHAOS.

FOR OTHERS, HOWEVER, IT REPRESENTED AN INCREASE IN REAL PROSPERITY FOR THE MASS OF THE PEOPLE, THE GROWTH OF TRADE AND INDUSTRY AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF PARLIAMENTARY INSTITUTIONS FROM 1399 to 1450.

THE DECLINE OF FEUDALISM NOT ONLY AFFECTED THE BARONAGE AND AGRICULTURE, BUT ALSO THE TOWNS AND GUILD ORGANISATIONS.

THERE WAS THE BLACK DEATH, HEAVY TAXATION AND GENERAL DECAY OF HOUSES, STREETS AND HARBOURS AND ALSO POPULATION DECLINE, WHICH LED TO RAIDS BY PIRATES AND OTHERS IN COASTAL TOWNS.

PRESSURE OF TAXES BY HENRY IV ON THE TOWN CRAFTSMEN DROVE THEM OUT INTO THE VILLAGES AND SUBURBS.

SO, WHILE MANY OLD TOWNS WERE IN A STATE OF DECAY, NEW TOWNS WERE GROWING WITH A NEW CAPITALIST OR SEMI CAPITALIST SYSTEM OF TRADE AND PRODUCTION, RESULTING IN A NEW FREEDOM.

IN CONTRAST, THE NOBLES IN THE COUNTRYSIDE WERE BECOMING MODERN LANDOWNERS AND ALSO GANGSTER CHIEFS,  EACH WITH A BAND OF RETAINERS DRAWN FROM UNEMPLOYED SOLDIERS WHOSE JOB IT WAS TO TERRORISE WEAKER NEIGHBOURS.

DURING THE FEUDAL AGE, THE NOBLES HAD THEIR OWN COURTS OF LAW, BUT NOW THEY USED THEIR ARMED FOLLOWERS TO DEFY THE LOCAL COURTS.

NOBODY, FROM PARLIAMENT DOWN TO THE OBSCURIST BENCH OF MAGISTRATES, WAS SECURE FROM THESE BANDS WHOSE OPEN INTIMIDATION PREVENTED VERDICTS BEING GIVEN AGAINST THE INTERESTS OF THEIR EMPLOYERS.


IF TWO NOBLES WERE INVOLVED, PROCEEDINGS OFTEN ENDED IN A PITCHED BATTLE.

ONE THE MOST CHARACTERISTIC FEATURES OF THE AGE WAS THE PERVERSION OF THE LAW BY THE RULING CLASS FOR THE PURPOSE OF LAWLESSNESS RATHER THAN A MERE OPEN DISREGARD OF LAW.

CLOTHING AND ARMOUR BECAME INCREASINGLY OSTENTATIOUS AS LORDS VIED WITH EACH OTHER.

HERALDRY AND TOURNAMENTS REACHED THEIR HIGHEST PITCH, JUST AT THE TIME WHEN THEY WERE LOSING ALL RELATION TO THE BUSINESS OF WAR.

HOWEVER, THE REAL RICHES WERE BEING ACCUMULATED BY THE MERCHANTS.

THE EXTRAVAGANCE OF THE AGE ENABLED MANY OF THESE MERCHANTS TO SECURE A FINANCIAL HOLD OVER THE NOBILITY THROUGH USURY, AND SOME ENTERED THE RANKS OF THE NOBLES.

THE DE LA POLE FAMILY MERCHANTS OF HULL ARE ONE EXAMPLE. THEY WERE FAR MORE LITERATE, NECESSITATING THE INVENTION OF PRINTING.

THE FORMER LITERATE CLASS, THE CLERGY, PRODUCED BOOKS AND COPIED MANUSCRIPTS AS THEIR MAIN OCCUPTAION OF MONASTIC LIFE.

FIRST BOOKS BY CAXTON WERE MAINLY OF A LEISURE TYPE TO SUIT THE NEEDS OF THIS NEW PUBLIC.

DURING THE NEXT GENERATION, THE BOURGEOISIE BEGAN TO USE THE PRESS AS A WEAPON, AND, DURING THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION, A TORRENT OF RELIGIOUS AND POLITICAL POLEMICAL WORKS APPEARED, SPREADING IDEAS OF THE REFORMERS WHERE OTHERWISE THEY WOULDN’T HAVE REACHED.

THOUGH ENGLAND WAS NOT A HAPPY PLACE, THE LARGE PROPORTION OF PEASANT FARMERS CULTIVATING THEIR LANDS AS FREEHOLDERS OR TENANTS PROSPERED AND LAND PRICES ROSE.

THE POPULATION INCREASED, AND SO DID THE MARKET FOR WOOL.

LABOURERS ENJOYED RELATIVELY HIGHER WAGES.

THE STATUTES OF LABOURERS WAGES WERE FIXED AT 3d OR 4d A DAY, BUT THEIR WAS NO TELLING HOW REGULAR EMPLOYMENT WAS.

A MAN HIRED FOR THE YEAR RECEIVED 20s 8d PLUS FOOD AND LODGINGS AND A WOMAN 14s.

BOTH LABOURERS AND PEASANT FARMERS WERE TAKING UP SPINNING AND WEAVING AS DOMESTIC INDUSTRIES, AND IT WAS THIS AS MUCH AS AGRICULTURE THAT CAUSED PROSPERITY.

THIS TIME OF CHAOS AND PROSPERITY MARKED THE TRANSITION FROM FEUDAL TO BOURGEOISIE SOCIETY.

THE GROWTH OF PEASANT AGRICULTURE WAS THE RESULT OF THE DECLINE OF MANORIAL ORGANISATION IN A PERIOD WHEN THE ACCUMULATION OF CAPITAL WAS INSUFFICIENT TO ALLOW THE DEVELOPMENT OF A FULLY CAPITALIST AGRICULTURE, BUT ONCE THIS ACCUMULATION REACHED THE NECESSARY LEVEL, AS IT DID IN THE 16th CENTURY, THE EXTINCTION OF THE PEASANT FARMER WAS INEVITABLE.

THE ANARCHY OF THE PERIOD WAS ALSO DUE TO THE DECLINE OF FEUDALISM AND THE FORM OF STATE POWER WHICH REPLACED IT.

INTERNAL WARS DESTROYED THE POWER OF THE NOBLES IN WHAT WAS AN UNSUCCESSFUL ATTEMPT TO SECURE CONTROL FROM THE STATE.

THE STRUGGLE LEFT THE STATE AND BOURGEOISIE STRONGER THAN BEFORE, AND THEY MADE AN ALLIANCE MUCH TO THEIR MUTUAL ADVANTAGE.

Chapter 5 - The End of the Middle Ages-Sect.4-The War of the Roses

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CHAPTER V: THE END OF THE MIDDLE AGES

SECTION 4: THE WAR OF THE ROSES

 

AFTER THE END OF THE FRENCH WAR, CIVIL WAR BROKE OUT BETWEEN 1455 AND 1485. THE NOBLES BATTLED EACH OTHER, WHICH LED TO THE DESTRUCTION OF THE RULING CLASS.

 

THE DECENDANTS OF EDWARD III, WHO HAD RIVAL CLAIMS TO THE ENGLISH THRONE AND WHO OWNED IMMENSE WEALTH AND LANDS, WERE SMALL IN NUMBER BUT POLITICALLY AMBITIOUS.

 

BY 1445, KING HENRY VI WAS INVOLVED IN A CONSTANT STRUGGLE WITH THESE DESCENDANTS OF EDWARD, BUT, AS THE ROYAL ESTATE REVENUE DWINDLED TO £9000 A YEAR, THE COST OF GOVERNMENT FELL MORE THAN EVER ONTO THE SHOULDERS OF THE TAXPAYERS.

 

THIS LED TO THE POPULAR RISE OF THE MIDDLE CLASSES - MERCHANTS, COUNTRY GENTS, YEOMEN AND FARMERS - AND THE WAR OF THE ROSES BECAUSE OF MISGOVERNMENT AND CORRUPTION BY THE NOBLES.

 

SO, IT WAS A DIFFERENT MOVEMENT FROM THAT IN 1381. THESE REBELS DEMANDED THAT THE DUKE OF YORK BE BROUGHT INTO COUNCIL AND THE FOLLOWERS OF SUFFOLK DISMISSED AND PUNISHED.

 

EARLY IN 1450, THE YORKIST PARLIAMENT IMPEACHED SUFFOLK, WHO WAS ON HIS WAY TO FRANCE, BUT SAILORS SEIZED AND BEHEADED HIM AND THREW HIM INTO THE SEA.

 

THIS MURDER WAS A SIGNAL TO REVOLT, AND 50,000 MEN MARCHED ON LONDON ONLY TO BE MET BY THE ROYAL ARMY AT GREENWICH. THE REBELS MELTED AWAY.

 

PANIC FOLLOWED IN GOVERNMENT, AND, WHEN THE REVOLT REAPPEARED AND SEIZED LONDON BRIDGE ON JULY 5TH, IT WAS DEFEATED AND ITS LEADERS, INCLUDING CADE, HUNTED DOWN AND EXECUTED.

 

THE RISING HAD WEAKENED GOVERNMENT TO THE EXTENT THAT IN 1455 THE WAR OF THE ROSES OPENED WITH A VICTORY FOR THE DUKE OF YORK AT ST ALBANS.

 

THE WARS THAT FOLLOWED WERE NOT FEUDAL IN CHARACTER, THAT IS NOT BY BARONS WANTING TO ENLARGE THEIR DOMAINS, BUT BY GROUPS FIGHTING TO GAIN CONTROL OF THE STATE MACHINE.

 

THESE WERE WARS OF EXTERMINATION AND CONFISCATION OF LANDS OF THE DEFEATED TO THE CROWN. THEY WERE DESTRUCTIVE TO THE PARTICIPANTS BUT HARDLY AFFECTED THE REST OF THE COUNTRY AS A WHOLE.

 

RURAL GROUPS OF NOBLES FORMED GANGS MADE UP OF LANCASTRIANS SUPPORTED BY WILD NOBLES FROM SCOTTISH AND WELSH BORDERS AND THE MOST BACKWARD FEUDAL ELEMENTS SURVIVING IN THE COUNTRY.

 

THE YORKISTS DREW SUPPORT FROM THE SOUTH, EAST ANGLIA AND LONDON, AND A VICTORY WOULD HAVE PREPARED THE WAY FOR THE TUDOR MONARCH OF THE NEXT CENTURY.

 

THE GREATEST BATTLE, IN 1461, WAS CENTRED ON GLOUCESTER AND TOWTON WHERE THE LANCASTRIANS WERE CAUGHT IN A SNOW STORM AND RETIRED.

 

VICTORY THERE WAS FOR THE SOUTH OVER THE NORTH, RATHER THAN FOR YORKISTS OVER LANCASTRIANS.

 

EDWARD IV CAME TO THE THRONE AFTER THE BATTLE AND REGROUPED POWER WITH HIS LONDON FRIENDS. HIS CLAIM TO THE THRONE CAME FROM THE YORKISTS IN THE FACE OF PARLIAMENT’S HOUSE OF LANCASTER. IGNORING PARLIAMENT, HE RAISED MONEY FROM THE MERCHANT SUPPORTERS.

 

HIS SEIZURE OF ESTATES OF THE DEFEATED MADE HIM RICHER THAN ANY ENGLISH KING BEFORE, AND, THOUGH HE REDUCED THE POWERS OF THE NOBLES, HE CREATED A NEW HEIRARCHY AS A COUNTERBALANCING FORCE.

 

AFTER HIS DEATH IN 1483, THE OLDER NOBLES UNDER HIS BROTHER RICHARD HAD LITTLE TROUBLE OUSTING EDWARD’S SUPPORTERS, AND RICHARD MADE HIMSELF KING AFTER HAVING EDWARD’S SONS MURDERED. BUT THIS LED TO A STRUGGLE WITH THE VERY NOBLES WHO HAD SUPPORTED HIM.

 

IT LEFT RICHARD WITHOUT THE SUPPORT HE NEEDED, AND, AT THE BATTLE OF BOSWORTH IN 1485, WITH A MERE HANDFUL OF MEN ON EITHER SIDE, HE WAS DEFEATED AND KILLED. THIS LED TO THE END OF THE WAR OF THE ROSES, AND THE NEW MONARCHY FOUNDED BY HENRY VII WAS BASED ON A CLASS FORCES.

 

WE CAN SAY THAT 1485 WAS, AS FAR AS ENGLAND IS CONCERNED, THE END OF THE MIDDLE AGES.

Additons - Bill of Attainder

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v

A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF ENGLAND
ADDITION TO CH.V SECT 2

 

 

EXPLANATION OF TERMS

BILL OF ATTAINDER

 

A bill, act or writ of attainder was a piece of legislation that declared a person or persons guilty of a crime. A bill of attainder allowed for the guilty party to be punished without a trial. A bill of attainder was part of English common law. Whereas Habeus Corpus guaranteed a fair trial by jury, a bill of attainder bypassed this. Despite the unfair nature of a bill of attainder, they were only abolished in the United Kingdom in 1870.

 

The word “attainder” meant tainted. A bill of attainder was mostly used for treason – as in the cases of http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/Archbishop-William-Laud.htm">Laud and http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/Earl-of-Strafford.htm">Strafford – and such a move suspended a person’s civil rights and guaranteed that the person would be found guilty of the crimes stated in the bill as long as the Royal Assent was gained. For serious crimes such as treason, the result was invariably execution. The guilty person’s family would find that his/her property was confiscated by the Crown as he/she had no right to make a will. All titles held would go to the Crown. In this sense, the attainted person’s family was also held to be guilty as they were also punished, though not to the same degree.

 

A bill of attainder was a convenient method used the the Crown to remove nobles who were deemed to be getting above themselves – though attainders were rarely used and probably the most famous cases of them being used involved Parliament and Archbishop Laud and the Earl of Strafford. Though the source of the bills may have been different, the results were the same.

 

The first bill of attainder was used in 1321 and the last was in 1798. The most famous people to be executed as a result of a bill were Thomas Cromwell in 1540, http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/catherine_howard.htm">Catherine Howard in 1542 and Laud and Strafford in 1641. In Catherine’s case, http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/henry8.htm">Henry VIII delegated the passing of the Royal Assent to others so that he did not have to sign the document himself.

 

In May 1660, certain regicides were also served with bills of attainder even though they were dead – Oliver Cromwell and John Bradshaw (the judge at Charles I trial) were the most famous. The bills served on them were backdated to January 1649 – the month and year Charles was executed. The bill stated that all the bodies were to be dug up and symbolically executed as befitted traitors.

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