Life and Death: A Study of the Wills and Testaments of Men and Women in London and Bury St. Edmunds in the late Fourteenth and early Fifteenth Centuries.

Bob Wood

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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The aim of this thesis is to investigate the lives of men and women living in London and Bury St. Edmunds in the late fourteenth - early fifteenth centuries. Sources studied include the administrative and legal records of the City of London and of the Abbot and Convent of St. Edmund’s abbey; legislation and court records of royal government and the wills and testaments of Londoners and Bury St. Edmunds’ inhabitants. Considerable research on a wide range of topics on London, but far less work on Bury St. Edmunds, has already been undertaken; however, this thesis is the first systematic comparative study of these two towns.

The introduction discusses the historiography and purpose of the thesis; the
methodology used, and the shortcomings of using medieval wills and the probate process. Chapter One discusses the testamentary jurisdiction in both towns; who was involved in the will making process, and the role that clerics played as both executors and scribes and how the church courts operated. Chapter Two focuses on testators’ preparations for the afterlife, their choices concerning burial location, funeral arrangements and the provisions made for prayers for their souls. Chapter Three examines in detail their pious and charitable bequests and investigates what ‘good works’ testators chose to support apart from ‘forgotten tithes’.

The family and household relationships, including servants and apprentices, are
examined in Chapter Four, exploring the differences in bequests made depending on the testators’ marital status, together with evidence for close friendships and social networks. Chapter Five discusses the ownership and types of books referred to in wills and the inter-relationship between the donors and the recipients. Testators’ literacy and the provision for education are also investigated.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Barron, Caroline, Supervisor, External person
Award date1 Apr 2013
Publication statusUnpublished - 2013

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