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

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posted on 2023-05-26, 22:12 authored by Caudrey, Philip Jonathan
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'‚àö‚Ñ¢tre of the warrior gentry and without it East Anglia's military community could not maintain its former cohesion.


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No access or viewing until 10 June 2012. Thesis (PhD)--University of Tasmania, 2010. Includes bibliographical references

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