Between Magna Carta and the Parliamentary State: the Fine Rolls of King Henry III 1248-1272
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Output Expressing complex associations in medieval historical documents: the Henry III Fine Rolls Project
Has principal investigator David Carpenter
Status Closed
Identifier AH/F011105/1
abstract Between Magna Carta and the Parliamentary State: the Fine Rolls of King Henry III 1248-1272' is a collaborative project involving The National Archives (TNA) and King's College London's Department of History and Centre for Computing in the Humanities. \nThe aim is to cast new light on one of the most significant periods in English history, in the process making an extraordinary set of documents intelligible and freely available to the general public for use in many contexts. \n\nWritten in Latin on parchment, the fine rolls are the earliest of the great series of rolls on which the English royal Chancery recorded its business, a series unique in Europe and one of the chief treasures of TNA. Fines were offers of money to the king for concessions and favours. Permission for a widow to stay single or to marry whom she wished, licences to set up new markets, writs to pursue legal actions, all these and much more besides had to be paid for, the amount often depending on the degree of favour enjoyed with the king. The rolls also record appointments to local office, taxation levied on towns, exactions from Jews, and orders to seize land into the king's hands during political crises. \n\nThere are twenty-four rolls between 1248-72, the second half of Henry's reign, some containing over 40,000 words. They have never been properly published or analysed, despite the large window they open onto one of the most formative and exciting periods of English history. With the size of the political community rapidly expanding, these were key years in the development of English identity and the English state. They saw the first summons of knights and burgesses to parliament (the House of Commons in embryo), a political revolution far more radical than Magna Carta in 1215, and the rule of Simon de Montfort, the first leader to seize power from the king and govern the country. Society was changing fast, the period, so historians have suggested, witnessing the impoverishment of the Jews, a crisis of the knightly class, significant changes to the landscape, the transition from 'feudalism' to 'bastard feudalism' and widespread starvation of peasants as the population outran the ability of the land to sustain it. \n\nThe project will publish a book examining the light shed by the rolls on politics and patronage, law and government, writing and bureaucracy, society and economy, and gender and family. It will explore the idea that that the restrictions imposed by Magna Carta on the king's arbitrary power to exact money necessitated the taxation which only parliament could grant, hence the new power of parliament and the development of the parliamentary state.\n\nIn order to research these questions, an English translation of the rolls will be prepared in electronic form with a sophisticated search engine capable of sorting themes and subjects as well as people and places. In line with TNA's vision of 'History for All', this resource, together with digitised images of the original rolls, will be freely available across the world on the project's website, which will be developed from the existing site of the AHRC funded project which published Henry III's fine rolls from 1216 to 1248:; 'a treasure-trove of information' according to one user. Family historians, who make up 65% of TNA's readers, will be able to use their skills on the wealth of material in the rolls about families and their networks. Shoolchildren, students and historians of all kinds will be able to access the resource both to explore the questions addressed by the project, and pose and answer questions of their own. Everyone will be encouraged to contribute to the 'Fine of the Month' feature where (as in the 1216-48 project) there is monthly comment on material in the rolls.\n\nThe project thus illuminates a momentous period of English history and creates and democratises a lasting resource for use by many people in many contexts.
Type Project
Label Between Magna Carta and the Parliamentary State: the Fine Rolls of King Henry III 1248-1272
Title Between Magna Carta and the Parliamentary State: the Fine Rolls of King Henry III 1248-1272

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