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9 - The Fiscal Management of England under Henry I

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 March 2023

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Summary

And the same Restold owes £239 and 15s and 2d for defaults on county payments; namely, for one year’s produce and demesne, for granges and mills, for fisheries, for villeins and borders, ploughs and ploughmen and hay. And in defaults for the land for which there was no grain.

This entry from the only Exchequer record to survive the first half of the twelfth century, along with thousands of others contained in the thirty-membrane manuscript, indicates that the complex and centralized administration of Henry I (1100–1135) was impaired by inefficiency and incompetence. It suggests as well that the obstacles facing the smooth assumption and maintenance of power by Anglo-Norman kings may have extended well beyond the pacification of a native populace and the competition from rival regimes to economic insolvency and noncompliance, for Restold, sheriff of Oxford from 1122–1127, was still in arrears three years later. This is not to disparage the achievements and precedents in record-keeping and law that pertain to Henry I’s reign, which have been recognized for over a century. But I will argue that an idealized view of well-managed Anglo-Norman government and a particularly indomitable king is a flawed one. This paper, based on my own audit of the Pipe Roll of 1130, questions received opinion epitomized in the long-awaited biography of Henry I by the late C.Warren Hollister:

The reign of Henry I stands as the most creative in the Anglo-Norman era. With its long peace and stability, Henry’s regime contributed to the development of English medieval institutions: the centralizing, ever-tightening control of the curia regis over the administration of kingdom and duchy, the emergence of the exchequer with its sophisticated accounting procedures, the proliferation of royal justices, and the concentration of authority over exchequer, judicature, and English and Norman vice-regencies in the hands of an elite group of skillful and loyal servants. Subsequent kings, despite the machine’s steady growth, had less success with the system than Henry I.

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Henry I and the Anglo-Norman World
Studies in Memory of C. Warren Hollister
, pp. 158 - 182
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2007

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