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The Character of English Rural SocietyEarls Colne, 1550-1750$
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Henry French and Richard Hoyle

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780719051081

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: July 2012

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719051081.001.0001

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The lord and his copyholders

The lord and his copyholders

(p.145) 5 The lord and his copyholders
The Character of English Rural Society

H. R. French

R. W. Hoyle

Manchester University Press

The appearance for the first time of resident gentry in villages that had previously lacked them was a widespread phenomenon in the century after 1540 whose implications have barely been considered. These gentry disturbed settled patterns of self-government. As they sought to increase the profitability of their manors, they sometimes alienated their tenants and neighbours, who had formerly enjoyed the first pick of the profits of the manor in the form of cheap leases, under-valued copyholds, and largely unrestricted access to the resources of the manor, including its timber and commons. Incoming lords could also bring with them their own concepts of ideal social behaviour, which might engender another form of conflict within the village. This chapter reviews three areas of contact, and in some cases conflict, between the lords and the tenants. The first section describes the antagonisms prompted by the attempt to remould timber rights to the lord's advantage; the second the lords' intervention in the affairs of individual copyhold families; and the third the attempt to use the court leet to instil moral discipline into the inhabitants of the village. All need to be read against the long and protracted decline of the seigniorial interest in Earls Colne and English villages generally.

Keywords:   lords, tenants, conflict, English villages, resident gentry, timber rights, copyhold families, court leet, moral discipline

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