Reconstructing medieval geographies
: a comparative study of the distribution of wealth based on the 1291 Taxatio Ecclesiastica and 1334 Lay Subsidy for Norfolk and Suffolk

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis evaluates and jointly analyses two key medieval taxation documents, the 1291 Taxatio Ecclesiastica and the 1334 Lay Subsidy. The detailed geographical information they provide is used as the basis for this comparison which is focused on the area of Norwich diocese, essentially the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk. The key issues addressed by the thesis are whether it is possible to map the information the sources provide at a local level, whether they indicate any patterns in the spatial distribution of the wealth they record, how far they reflect the physical landscape and how far they correlate or contrast with one another.
Both sources are arranged as a list of place names representing different geographical units. This thesis compares these disparate sources by aligning these two lists into a single geography. This single geography uses the most detailed areal cover, parishes, which provide the basis for a localised view. While earlier research has mapped the Lay Subsidy, mapping has not been attempted at such a granular level before. No prior attempt has been made to map the Taxatio either for East Anglia, or for an entire diocese. Previous comparisons between the two have been generalised, using much larger administrative units than those this thesis employs.
Wealth held by the church was an important facet of medieval life and this thesis argues it should be included in any consideration of local economies. The key finding is the broadly similar geographies of high and low wealth distribution identified between the two sources and the landscape. Comparing the two documents with each other and with other contextual sources offers the opportunity to provide a more balanced view. In turn this increases our knowledge of medieval society by incorporating both elements into the overall picture of the distribution of wealth.
Date of AwardAug 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorAlastair Pearson (Supervisor), Humphrey Southall (Supervisor) & Richard Healey (Supervisor)

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