The Esh Family: Officeholding and Landed Society in the Palatinate of Durham in the Earlier Fourteenth Century
Author: Holford, M. L.
Source: Northern History, Volume 43, Number 2, September 2006 , pp. 221-239(19)
Publisher: Maney Publishing
Abstract:The prominent role of the gentry in late medieval local administration has long been acknowledged, and studies of officeholding have been central to the identification and understanding of that social group. Local administration in the liberty of Durham, however, was very different. The liberty's constitutional peculiarities meant that fewer prestigious offices were available to local gentry; furthermore, local office was controlled not by the king, but by the bishop of Durham, who was free to appoint men of relatively low status for extended terms. As a result, many of the liberty's gentry, and the majority of its greater families, had little formal involvement in its administration, which was dominated instead by a small corps of professionals for whom office provided rapid advancement in local society. This paper provides a detailed account of a family that produced several such professionals, who were extremely prominent in the liberty's administration in the first half of the fourteenth century. Their careers illuminate the workings of patronage and lordship in the liberty, and demonstrate the substantial impact of the liberty's distinctive administration on the structure and identity of the local political community. They also suggest some tentative wider conclusions about the relationship between officeholding and gentility.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 2006-09-01