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English Medieval Legal Documents Database

A Compilation of Published Sources from 600 to 1535

Full Text Administrative Records

Charters declared the more solemn acts of the kings, granting rights and privileges. Many of these reside in local cartularies to be found among manorial and ecclesiastical records, as well as in the records of cities and boroughs, and these are not listed here.

Closed correspondence containing private instructions by kings to individuals, they include writs of summons of the peers, and writs of election for the commons. The proceedings relating to tenure are often entered on the close roll, together with the records of judicial proceedings before the king's council.

Relating to financial affairs, they were records of payments due in return for royal grants of licenses, pardons, etc. and fines promised to the king in lieu of military service. They were compiled in Chancery and a copy was sent to the Exchequer for their records, where they were known as the Originalia Rolls which are extant from 1194-95. These often duplicated entries in the charter, patent or close rolls.

These rolls were records of the inquests held by commissioned justices sent by the king throughout the hundreds to inquire, not only into the value and state of the demesne lands of the crown, and the knights' fees held in capite, but also into the illegal exercise of territorial franchises. Based on these findings, a series of Quo_warranto proceedings were held thoughout the counties.

These great annual rolls of the Exchequer contain the accounts of the royal income, not only from the regular revenues from the king's demesnes, but also from taxations, judicial amercements, and agreements made with the king for privileges and favors in all the counties of England. They are based primarily on accounts from the sheriffs, as the king's representatives in the counties. They extend from 1156-1833, lacking only the years 1216 and 1403, and until 1733, they were written in abbreviated Latin. A listing of published rolls by county can be found in Graves (61), while Mullins gives details on the volumes published by the Pipe Roll Society (62).

61. Graves, Edgar B., and Charles Gross, comps. A Bibliography of English History to 1485: Based on The Sources and Literature of English History From the Earliest Times to About 1485 by Charles Gross. Oxford, Eng.; New York: Clarendon Press, 1975 at pp.475-7
62. Mullins, Edward L. C. Texts and Calendars : an Analytical Guide to Serial Publications. 2 Vols. Royal Historical Society, 7, 12. London: Royal Historical Society, 1958-1983. vol. 1, at pp.232-8

Calendars and Registers of Administrative Documents

These are primarily the work of the PRO (now the National Archives), who began publishing calendars of their records in 1854. They are generally in the language of the original, and their purpose is to provide catalogues of the series and give summary notes of the contents of each item.