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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: March 2021

Introduction

Summary

The Rotuli Hundredorum, better known as the Hundred Rolls, contain 1,800 pages of statistical information relating to property rents in c.1279 for King Edward I. A printed edition was published by the Record Commission in 1818, using the original medieval Latin, in a special typeface designed to replicate the abbreviated script of medieval scribes. It is this edition that has formed the basis for most (though not all) subsequent research on property holding at that time.

The geographical coverage of the rolls is incomplete, and Cambridge has better coverage than almost all other towns of similar size in England. Frederic Maitland pioneered statistical analysis of the Hundred Rolls in the appendix to his book Township and Borough, published in 1898. Cambridge, however, has been misunderstood. In the early 20th century its history was extensively studied by members of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society and its predecessor organizations, including distinguished scholars such as Gray and Stokes. These scholars, like Maitland, were unaware that the coverage of Cambridge by the Record Commission was incomplete. The first and last rolls were included by the Commission, giving an impression of completeness, but the middle roll was omitted. This additional roll did not come to light until quite recently. This volume provides a new edition of the Hundred Rolls for Cambridge, including the previously unpublished roll. It also provides appendixes of new translations of untranslated sources that reveal the history of the properties recorded in the Hundred Rolls and the families who owned them. A companion monograph, analysing the contents of the rolls, has also been published by the authors with Bristol University Press. It is entitled Compassionate Capitalism: Business and Community in Medieval England.

The content of the Hundred Rolls

The Hundred Rolls are the records of government enquiries in 1255, 1274–5 and 1279–80 that were conducted across the subdivisions of English counties known as hundreds. The commission of 1255 focused on royal rights, that of 1274–5 on ‘liberties and the misdeeds of officials’ and that of 1279–80 on liberties and landholding. For each enquiry commissioners were instructed to go in person to their allocated county or counties and to ‘take evidence of sworn juries of knights and freeholders in every hundred’.

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