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War and society in medieval Norfolk : the warrior gentry, c. 1350-c. 1430

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Caudrey, Philip Jonathan (2010) War and society in medieval Norfolk : the warrior gentry, c. 1350-c. 1430. PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

This thesis seeks to investigate - through a regional case study of Norfolk
county society between 1350 and 1430 - the dual role played by the warrior gentry as
soldiers fighting regularly in the king's wars and as shire landowners and office
holders, who stood at the forefront of their county community. Chapter One describes
the methodology employed in this thesis and places this study in its historiographical
context, highlighting the ways in which the majority of county histories have adopted
a predominantly political approach to their subject matter, which rarely seeks to
reconcile the military and civilian duties of the warrior gentry within and beyond shire
borders. Chapter Two outlines the character of Norfolk society between 1350 and
1430, revealing it to be a comparatively wealthy and cohesive county community.
Chapter Three homes in directly upon the warrior gentry of the shire, demonstrating
the dual role played by the military elite firstly as landlords, politicians and local
office holders, and secondly as soldiers with chivalric reputations to maintain.
Chapter Four reveals the influence of lordship over Norfolk gentry society - not in a
political sense - but chiefly in terms of the widespread contacts, offices, patronage and
rewards accrued by the knightly elite in the service of the numerous magnates who
held estates in the county. Chapter Four ends by showing the nobility's important role
as the major military recruiters in the region. Chapter Five focuses specifically upon
the military records of the region's gentry, demonstrating that war was a gamble, but
that most of Norfolk's knightly elite, as well as considerable numbers of sub-knightly
men-at-arms, were prepared to participate at least occasionally. Chapter Six pulls
together the strands from each of the preceding chapters to argue that the cultural
values of chivalry - stressing personal and family honour - engendered amongst
Norfolk's warrior elite a sense of cultural community and accounts for their desire to
serve their sovereign in his overseas military enterprises. It suggests that it was the
common ideology of chivalry that cut across the social and economic boundaries of
the county community and allowed the East Anglian warrior gentry to form a vibrant,
though ill-defined, regional military community, in which social rank played second
fiddle to military prowess. Finally, Chapter Seven rounds off this study by
demonstrating the ways in which the above solidarities were undermined after c.
1430, in an era when the tide of the Hundred Years War turned against the English,
when the military participation of Norfolk's gentry declined, and when, simultaneously, the county became wracked by political instability in what has
popularly become known as the `Paston Age'.
This thesis has found that Norfolk's warrior gentry were highly active
participants in the wars of the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. They
served extensively on royal and ducal campaigns in France, Scotland, Ireland and
Spain, and some even fought in the German states and the Holy Land on their own
account. Several of the shire's most militarily-active soldiers were full-time
professionals, seeking to live from the wages and profits of warfare. The majority of
the knightly elite, however, were regular, though intermittent, participants in these
conflicts. Such men possessed significant personal wealth and interspersed their bouts
of military service abroad with their daily duties as landlords and shire officials back
at home. For men of this ilk, their military service was less a matter of financial gain
and more a necessary fillip to their personal and family honour. Although some of
these experienced warriors served under numerous commanders over the course of
their long careers in arms, many others saw much of their military service under the
banner of one or two magnates. These magnates looked to Norfolk's populous gentry
warrior class as a source of military support, and a number of the county's knights
and esquires carved out long and profitable careers for themselves serving a particular
lord in war and peace over an extended time period. Pecuniary advantage aside, it was
the influence of the chivalric ethos over the East Anglian gentry - especially marked
between 1350 and 1430 in light of England's numerous battlefield triumphs - that
provided Norfolk's warrior gentry with a common ideology that cut across social
boundaries, heightened their martial inclinations, and connected them culturally with
their fellow warriors across the eastern counties. The vibrant military community that
evolved between the reigns of Edward III and Henry V, however, was rapidly
undermined after 1430 as Norfolk county society increasingly became politically
unstable, and as the English simultaneously lost almost all of their French territory.
War had always been a gamble, but after 1430 it looked increasingly unlikely to pay
off. Moreover, from 1453 there were no more opportunities for Norfolk's young
warrior gentry to see military service, except in the civil conflicts of the Wars of the
Roses, or by undertaking garrison duty at Calais, England's last remaining French
outpost. As such, the knightly elite increasingly became detached from the harsh
reality of chivalrous warfare and focused instead upon the spectacle and pageantry of
chivalric culture, celebrated in literature, architecture, feasts, parades and
tournaments. Military service was the raison d'être of the warrior gentry and without
it East Anglia's military community could not maintain its former cohesion.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Copyright Holders: The Author
Additional Information:

No access or viewing until 10 June 2012. After that date, available for use in the Library and copying in accordance with the Copyright Act 1968, as amended. Thesis (PhD)--University of Tasmania, 2010. Includes bibliographical references

Date Deposited: 25 Nov 2014 00:58
Last Modified: 11 Mar 2016 05:53
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