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The 150th anniversary of the Royal Historical Society offers an opportunity for an investigation into its publications over the longue durée. Its slow transformation from an association of literary dilettanti to a body of professional historians in the period 1890–1910 was accompanied by changes to its publication programme: the appointment of a literary director, an improvement in the quality of papers read, the merger with the Camden Society and the commitment to a programme of historical bibliographies established the basis of the Society's publishing programme for much of the twentieth century. The interwar years saw new initiatives including the launch of Guides and Handbooks, but the Society was already losing momentum, and an ill-fated foray into the publication of diplomatic records stymied its reputation. The 1950s and 1960s were a period of ongoing stasis, from which the Society was rescued in the early 1970s by G. R. Elton and his allies, who promoted a monograph series and the Annual Bibliographies. The momentum of change was sustained by the early commitment to an electronic version of its bibliographies, and still more recently by a commitment to open access monographs. The changing profile of the Society's publications by gender of author, period and area is charted, raising questions about future directions.
This essay explores further the notion associated with W. K. Jordan that a new rational protestant philanthropy emerged after the Reformation. Drawing upon a sample of London wills from the period 1520-1640, it argues that protestants sought to forge an association between protestantism and charity, but suggests that there were rather more continuities with the catholic past than the polemics of the early reformers would leave one to believe. It explores the variety of forms in which voluntary giving was expressed, and argues that although giving was increasingly channelled through public institutions, giving within those institutional frameworks was often mediated through discretionary relationships of patronage and clientage.
This article seeks to establish the burden of direct taxation in the city of London in the sixteenth century. Previous discussions have been confined to the yield of parliamentary subsidies which cannot give a full picture because of the way responsibility for equipping military levies was increasingly devolved on to the locality. Estimates of the costs of the various additional military levies are therefore made. Innovations in parliamentary taxation enabled the crown to levy extraordinary sums in the 1540s, but they required a level of intervention by the privy council which Elizabeth's government was not prepared to make. The subsidy performed especially badly in London in the later sixteenth century. Local military rates compensated to some extent, but tax levels in real terms were very much lower in the 1590s than the 1540s. Nevertheless taxation was becoming increasingly regressive, which helps explain the greater level of complaint in the 1590s.
THE STABILITY OF THE CITY IN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
The government of the corporation of London was formally oligarchic. Executive authority lay with the court of aldermen, consisting of twenty-six men, one for each of the City's wards, and holding office for life. Apart from responsibility for much of the routine of City administration, the aldermen disposed of considerable judicial authority, managing the estates of minors in their capacity as the City's court of orphans, presiding over the mayor's court, the court of hustings, the sheriffs' court, and, in conjunction with representatives of common council, over the court of conscience with jurisdiction over petty debts. The senior aldermen, those who had passed the chair, together with the recorder, constituted the commission of peace in the City, and sat on gaol deliveries and at City sessions. The aldermen were able to exercise control over recruitment into their own ranks because, although vacancies were filled from among nominations from the wards, the court had the right to reject nominees. The high cost of office-holding, which resulted from the aldermen's duty of subsidising the round of civic feasting, meant that it was the preserve of the wealthy. In 1582, twenty-four of the aldermen were recruited from among the seventy-five householders assessed to the subsidy of that year at over ￡200. In the early Elizabethan period almost all the aldermen belonged to the cloth-exporting Merchant Adventurers' Company.
A central element in the more optimistic view of social relations in early modern London is an emphasis on the impressive ameliorative social policies pursued by the capital's rulers. In a seminal article published in 1979, Valerie Pearl argues for an imaginative, sensitive, and apparently successful programme of poor relief. She writes of enormous sums raised from legacies, rents, and rates even in the extramural parishes. It was a flexible system, as mechanisms existed for redistributing resources from wealthy to poorer parishes, and care was taken to adjust payments to needs. Thus pensions were increased in years of crisis and supplementary payments made to meet special needs. Parishes are found paying medical bills, helping with rent and clothing in times of difficulty, and even giving pensioners Christmas bonuses. The humanitarianism of parish administrators is shown by the high level of care provided for foundlings, including support for their education. A strong sense of communal responsibility is suggested by the innovative policies pursued by vestries in seeking solutions to the problems confronting them, for example in encouraging subscriptions from parishioners to buy up housing, the income from which might be used to support the poor. Poor relief, it is suggested, sustained demand, and allowed some measure of economic growth, contributing to the development of the consumer industries whose growth has been charted by Joan Thirsk.
Earlier chapters have stressed the integrating functions of the livery companies and of the overlapping institutions of local government, as well as the responsiveness of the elite to the impoverishment of the sixteenth century. But it needs to be recognised that by no means all the city's inhabitants were so well integrated or cared for. The capital was notorious for its criminality and contemporaries firmly believed there to be a counter-culture of deviants. Foreign visitors frequently drew attention to the prevalence of crime about the metropolis and the regular flow of criminals to the gallows. Their verdict is supported by those, like Recorder Fleetwood, who were actively involved in fighting London crime. ‘Here are fortie brables and pickeries done abowt this towne more in any one daye than when I first came to serve was done in a moneth’, he wrote in 1582. The aldermen concurred, complaining in 1601 of ‘the great numbers of idle, lewd, and wicked persons flocking and resorting hither from all parts of this realm which do live here and maintain themselves chiefly by robbing and stealing’. Clerics fulminated against vagrants as ‘the very filth and vermin of the common wealth … the very Sodomites of the land, children of Belial, without God, without minister; dissolute, disobedient, and reprobate to every good work’. The Elizabethan reading public was saturated in the image of a deviant counter-culture.