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Defining a community


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Defining a community controlling nuisance in late-medieval London
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Ciecieznski, Natalie J
University of South Florida
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ABSTRACT: Using municipal sources from late medieval London, this study examines nuisance as a sub-topic of social regulation. In addition to defining nuisance, it analyzes who controlled nuisance and how it was controlled from the late thirteenth through the early fifteenth centuries. During this period, nuisance comprised building and boundary disputes between neighbors, such as conveying rainwater onto a neighboring property instead of to the street; environmental issues, such as blocking passageways with rubbish and not properly disposing of waste; certain groups of people and places, such as vagrants and brothels; and certain forms of speech, such as insults and threats. Many nuisances might have been nothing more than something that caused irritation or inconvenience, while others were potentially harmful. An insult could have damaged someone's reputation and a poorly-constructed wall could have fallen onto passers-by.This study argues that the large population and crowded urban environment of London led to nuisances that the inhabitants of England's smaller towns did not experience, such as the boundary disputes among closely-packed neighbors. Moreover, concerning reputation, certain nuisances only applied to one sex or the other; men who were perceived nuisances within the community were commonly labeled as vagrants, while women who acquired a bad reputation (as defined by the community) were labeled as sexual deviants. Lastly, this study argues that nuisance was controlled primarily by the community of London, rather than the sovereign. Although the king was involved in controlling nuisance by issuing regulations, the community of London, including both the municipal authorities and city's dominant merchant class, experienced the nuisances of late medieval London on a daily basis.They defined nuisance; their complaints stimulated the creation of and were responsible for the enforcement of most of the regulations that focused on controlling nuisance.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2009.
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by Natalie J. Ciecieznski.
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Defining a community :
b controlling nuisance in late-medieval London
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by Natalie J. Ciecieznski.
[Tampa, Fla] :
University of South Florida,
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains 93 pages.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2009.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.
ABSTRACT: Using municipal sources from late medieval London, this study examines nuisance as a sub-topic of social regulation. In addition to defining nuisance, it analyzes who controlled nuisance and how it was controlled from the late thirteenth through the early fifteenth centuries. During this period, nuisance comprised building and boundary disputes between neighbors, such as conveying rainwater onto a neighboring property instead of to the street; environmental issues, such as blocking passageways with rubbish and not properly disposing of waste; certain groups of people and places, such as vagrants and brothels; and certain forms of speech, such as insults and threats. Many nuisances might have been nothing more than something that caused irritation or inconvenience, while others were potentially harmful. An insult could have damaged someone's reputation and a poorly-constructed wall could have fallen onto passers-by.This study argues that the large population and crowded urban environment of London led to nuisances that the inhabitants of England's smaller towns did not experience, such as the boundary disputes among closely-packed neighbors. Moreover, concerning reputation, certain nuisances only applied to one sex or the other; men who were perceived nuisances within the community were commonly labeled as vagrants, while women who acquired a bad reputation (as defined by the community) were labeled as sexual deviants. Lastly, this study argues that nuisance was controlled primarily by the community of London, rather than the sovereign. Although the king was involved in controlling nuisance by issuing regulations, the community of London, including both the municipal authorities and city's dominant merchant class, experienced the nuisances of late medieval London on a daily basis.They defined nuisance; their complaints stimulated the creation of and were responsible for the enforcement of most of the regulations that focused on controlling nuisance.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
System requirements: World Wide Web browser and PDF reader.
Advisor: Gregory Milton, Ph.D.
Dissertations, Academic
x History
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
4 856


Defining a Community: Controlling Nuisance in Late Medieval London by Natalie J. Ciecieznski A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment o f the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Department of History College of Arts and Sciences Un iversity of South Florida Major Professor: Gregory Milton, Ph.D. Kees Boterbloem, Ph.D. Michael Decker, Ph.D. Date of Approval: November 17, 2009 Keywords: Environment, England, Urban, Regulation, G ender Copyright 2009 Natalie J. Ciecieznski


To All of My S upporters


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS First and foremost, I thank Dr. David Carr, who advised me on this thesis as my major professor from the very beginning, but was not able to complete this project with me due to a situation beyond our control. Much of my inspiration for doing environmental history has come from him. Additionally, Dr. Carr has been instrumental in helping me grow throughout my time at USF as both an undergraduate and a graduate st udent I thank Dr. Michael Decker, who stepped in to become my third committee member on such short notice. Dr. Gregory Milton, who filled the role of my primary advisor during the completion of this project, was extremely dedicated, patient, and support ive. I have greatly valued his enthusiasm and thoughtful guidance both during the course of this project and throughout my j ourney as a graduate student. Likewise Dr. Kees Boterbloem has never ceased to encourage me and to support my work, and I thank h im for taking the time to advise me on this project and for always building my confidence as a growing historian. I am also extremely grateful to my family members for all of their love and support; I appreciate everything that they have done for me and I thank them for standing by me during the most difficult times. Lastly, I continue to thank Mr. Shawn Williams, whose influence was instrumental in sparking my interest in history during a period in my life when I was struggling to find purpose and direct ion.


i TABLE OF CONTENTS Abstract ii Chapter I: Defining Nuisance and the Urban Community 1 Studie s and Sources 4 City and Community 8 Private Space and Community 11 O rphans and Community 18 Conclusion 23 Chapter II: Environment and Space of the Community 25 Pavement and Construction 27 City Cleaning and Animals 34 Fish and Flesh 40 Conclusion 54 Chapter III: Managing Identity and Reputation within the Community 57 Men and Vagrancy 5 8 Women and Sexuality 66 Defamation and Reputation 73 Conclusion 82 Conclu sion 84 Bibliography 88


ii DETER AND PUNISH: CO NTROLLING NUISANCE I N LATE MEDIEVAL LONDON Natalie J. Ciecieznski ABSTRACT Using municipal sources from late medieval London this study examines nuisance as a sub topic of social regulation. In addition to defining nuisance, it analyzes who controlled nuisance and how it was controlled from the late thirteenth through the early fifteenth centuries. During this period, nuisan ce comprised building and boundary disputes between neighbors, such as conveying rainwater onto a neighboring property instead of to the street; environmental issues, such as blocking passageways with rubbish and not properly disposing of waste; certain gr oups of people and places, such as vagrants and brothels; and certain forms of speech, such as insults and threats. Many nuisances might have been nothing more than something that caused irritation or inconvenience, while others were potentially harmful. An insult could have damage d constructed wall could have fall en onto passers by. This study argues that the large population and crowded urban environment of er towns did not experience, such as the boundary disputes among closely packed neighbors. Moreover, concerning reputation, certain nuisances only applied to one sex or the other; men who were perceived nuisances within the community were commonly labeled as vagrants,


iii w hile women who acquired a bad reputation (as defined by the community) were labeled as sexual deviants. Lastly, this study argues that nuisance was controlled primarily by the community of London, rather than the sovereign. Although the ki ng was involved in controlling nuisance by issuing regulations, the community of London, including both the municipal medieval London on a daily basis. They defined nuisance ; their complaints stimulated the creation of and were responsible for the enforcement of most of the regulations that focused on controlling nuisance.


1 CHAPTER I DEFINING NUISANCE AND THE URBAN COMMUNITY Looking only at late medieval London, this study examines nuisance and social regulation through an analysis of secular court records, as well as other relevant municipal sources. While some aspects of social regulation, such as issues surrounding marriage and sexuality, were overseen by church courts, this thesis will further add to the work of social historians who have analyzed developments in social regulation that have occurred on the secular stage. Secular concerns are as relevant as religious concerns for providing stimulus for various types of social regulation in late medieval London. Even more specifically, this thesis focuses on nuisance: that which can be described as bothersome, annoying, and potentially harmful. These acts of nuisance, while certainly not on the same level as violent cri me, could still cause harm through humiliation, bad influence, and creating potentially harmful situations. However, nuisance did not necessarily cause obvious harm; a particular nuisance might simply have been just that something that created general di scomfort or a feeling of irritation. Nuisance might best be defined as both a sub category of crime and a sub category of social regulation. The New Oxford American Dictionary defines nuisance as etymology of nuisance indicates that the word formally had a more direct connection to


2 harm. 1 The meaning of nuisance as it was presented in the Assize of Nuisance from late medieval London reflects a combination of these two definitions: a particular nuisance may have been simply annoying or potentially harmful. However, nuisance, whether or not it was formally defined during the period, certainly applied to other issues beyond the Assize that fell community and what has been studied as a crime, such as thef t or murder. Within the context of late medieval London, nuisance took the form of insults and threats; environmental contamination, such as noise, leaving obstructions in the streets, and dumping foul waste into the water; certain groups of people and p laces, such as nightwalkers and brothels; and any number of building violations that might have nuisances might have been nothing more than something that caused irritation or inconvenience, such as a blocked street, others were potentially harmful, such as the constructed wall that could fall on passers by. This first chapter not only introduces nuisance, but also the co mmunity of London. The large population of London, including its crowded living space, led to many of its nuisances that did not have their counterparts in other, smaller English communities. After introducing the city of London and its community, the fi nal two sections of this chapter introduce how the crowded urban setting of London, as well as its merchant class, contributed to how the community of London perceived nuisance during 1 Elizabeth J. Jewell and Frank Abate, eds., The New Oxford American Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).


3 this period. The other two chapters build on these two distinctions: on e chapter focuses on urban space while the other is devoted to reputation and identity within the community. More specifically, the second chapter analyzes how the community of medieval London perceived and controlled environmental nuisances. Specifically it analyzes how the community, both in the form of city officials and citizens, treated environmental concerns that affected both public and private spaces. Consistently, the records show that citizens demonstrated concern toward public environmental nu isances when they either posed a threat to their personal health and well being or their personal, private spaces. While their complaints stimulated many environmental regulations, others were created spaces. In the final chapter, identity and reputation within the community receive attention. As revealed through an analysis of who and what the community perceived as nuisances, some nuisances only seemed to be iden tified with one gender or the other. While it may have been more difficult for women to maintain a positive sexual reputation, men likewise valued their reputation and identity within the community and faced the threat of acquiring a bad reputation a bad label within the community if they valued reputation within the community, representing a nuisance in itself. In general, this thesis focuses on how the community of late medie val London defined itself through defining and controlling nuisance. Although the records only reveal part of the picture, either through the subjectivity of their recorders or due to


4 missing data, this study has addressed an aspect of medieval life that had not yet been directly analyzed by other historians, at least not as a separate and distinct area of study. In addition to crime and social regulation, nuisance represents a significant category of historical analysis that has revealed much about socie history, including its social values, ideals, and boundaries. Studies and Sources Nuisance has been included in many studies that have focused on crime, environmental history, and social regulation, but medieval histori ans in general have not attempted to examine nuisance as the central topic of a particular study, let alone for medieval London. However, since nuisance is obviously connected to crime, social regulation, and environmental regulation, appropriate English works that feature these topics have been consulted in an attempt to narrow down how nuisance can be defined and how it was perceived in late medieval London. Many historians have focused on some aspect of social regulation in medieval England, inspired by both religious and secular sources. Sylvia Thrupp, in her 1941 if not the most important source of attitudes surrounding social control in towns during the Middle A power of the church in the medieval town was ever present and all 2 She also 2 The Journal of Economic History vol. 1 (Dec., 1941): 39.


5 discussed the role of guilds, municipal authorities, and the family with regards to social c 3 Still, many historians have studied social control and similar topics without necessarily focusing on the medieval church and canonist ethics as major sources of social attitudes and r egulations. Over the years, many works have touched on a wide variety of topics that can be described as secular social regulation and, more specifically, nuisance. Within this category, Marjorie Keniston McIntosh and Barbara Hanawalt represent two key f igures. In Controlling Misbehavior in England, 1370 1600 Marjorie Keniston McIntosh analyzed court records from 255 small towns and communities throughout England. In her study, she demonstrated that concerns over social regulation had a long history o f growth prior to the Puritan influence of the Early Modern period. This is not to say that she focused on a shift from one religious institution to another; while the jurisdiction of medieval ecclesiastical courts over certain aspects of social regulatio n is mentioned, McIntosh used records from public secular courts to draw her conclusions. 4 In a sense, she not only demonstrated that social regulation had a long history of growth, but also that the development of social regulation was not necessarily de pendent on religious influences. Even though this thesis focuses on London rather than small English towns, 3 Ibid., 39 52. 4 Marjorie Keniston McIntosh Controlling Misbehavior in England, 1370 1600 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 1 9, 49.


6 some of the questions that were addressed for London. For ins tance, not only does this thesis confirm that concerns over social regulation had a long history of growth prior to Puritanism, but that, for London, this period of growth can be extended back much farther than her starting date of 1370. Barbara Hanawalt, whose work began to emerge during the 1970s, has focused not only rural and smaller English communities, but also the city of London. For London, her research on crime and social control has included children, family, gender, and public space, to name a f ew general topics. Although the significance of her research in medieval English social history extends far beyond the topical scope of this thesis, several titles, such as England (1998), ar e indispensable for any study of medieval social regulation. 5 The specific topics that she addressed in this work and others will be explained in more detail as they are addressed throughout the following chapters. Several historians have studied social r egulation in London from an environmental perspective. In the 1930s, Ernest L. Sabine published three articles Londoners had some concept of environmental concern beyond preconceived notions that 5 See especially Barbara Hanawalt, Medieval England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998) and Barbara Hanawalt and David Wallace, eds., Medieval Crime and Social Control (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999).


7 medieval people had no qualms about living in filth and disarray. 6 Qu ite recently, Caroline M. Barron included similar urban environmental topics in her broad based book on London entitled London in the Later Middle Ages: Government and People 1200 1500 (2004). 7 While much of this thesis consults and interacts with the hist orians mentioned above, most of the data comes from the Calendar of Letter Books of the City of London, A L which are the governmental records of the city for the late thirteenth century through the end of the fifteenth century; the Calendar of the Plea a nd Memoranda Rolls of the City of London: 1323 1412 which are similar to the Letter Books but less administrative and more legal in composition; and the London Assize of Nuisance 1301 1431 which primarily dealt with building violations between neighbors A few scattered fourteenth century references have also come from the London Liber Albus a compilation of 8 A more thorough, temporal analysis of this source was not attempted due to the uncertainty of what may have been purposely left out or included by its compiler. 9 Although the timeframe of this work is 6 Speculum 9, no. 3 (July 1934): 303 Speculum 12, no. 1 (Jan. 1937): 19 43; idem, Speculum 8, no. 3 (July 1933): 335 353. 7 Caroline M. Barron, London in the Later Middle Ages: Government and People 1200 1500 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 237 266. 8 Calendar of Letter Books of the City of London: A L: 1275 1509 ed. Reginald. R. Sharpe (London, 1899 1912). [Hereinafter CLB ]; Calendar of the Plea and Memoranda Rolls of the City of London : vols. 1 3: 1323 1412 ed. A. H. Thoma s (London, 1926 1932) [Hereinafter PM R ]; London Assize of Nuisance 1301 1431: A Calendar eds. Helena M. Chew and William Kellaway (London, 1973). [Hereinafter Nuisance ]; H. T. Riley, ed. and trans., The Liber Albus: The White Book of the City of London, Compiled in A.D. 1419 by John Carpenter, Common Clerk and Richard Whittington, Mayor (London, 1861). [Hereinafter, Liber Albus ] 9 Order in the London Liber Alb us Urban History vol. 33, no. 2 (2006): 176 194.


8 roughly from the late thirteenth century to the early fifteenth, when possible and where it seemed relevant, a few references from the Letter Books have come from later in the fifteenth century. Additionally, the analysis of the contents of the Plea and Memoranda Rolls ends roughly at the end of the fourteenth century. After this point, the types of cases included in the Rolls appears to shift away from the topics that are covered in this study. While a few useful references may exist from the fifteenth century Rolls for the purpose of more accurately and consistently tracing changes over time, only the fourteenth century references have been used Due to limited access to only English translations of these sources, a deeper analysis of the Latin the terminology was not possible. 10 While this obstacle may have limited the analytical scope of this thesis, it will easily add a new level of depth to the analysis as it is expanded in future editions. City and Community This thesis focuses on late medieval London, not England as a whole. This distinction must be kept in mind as many historians have merely included London within a general study of E ngland or have excluded London altogether. Too often, studies that focus only on one aspect of the history of medieval England appear to represent medieval English history as a whole. Evidence that might only apply to one place within England simply beco 10 Access to English translations of the CLB and PMR provided by British History Online at < http://www.british >; although translated into English from Latin, some Old English spellings were u sed/maintained, especially in regard to place names.


9 setting cannot effectively represent the rest of England, and vice versa. From its population to its urban environment, medieval London certainly differed in numerous ways from the sma ller communities of medieval England. Merchants and craftsmen dominated the community of London what Sylvia 11 Of course, the city was also home to members of the clergy, the gentry, and the poor, as well as many fo reigners and aliens, but its merchant class played the primary role in controlling the types of nuisances that represent the focus of this thesis. 12 As the dominant group, their population was the dominant voice reflected in the secular records; the action s and complaints of this group demonstrated their community needs, concerns, and desires. This was the main group responsible for controlling nuisance in late medieval London. Within the merchant class, a wide range of wealth and status existed; for inst ance, fishmongers were among the most powerful citizens. 13 Although this project does not (or was not able to) analyze the role of merchant status in detail, it receives some attention during the discussion of the environmental regulation of trades in the next chapter. The impact of status differences between ordinary free citizens and authority figures receives direct attention in the final chapter during the discussion of defamation. 14 Generally speaking, the citizens played the biggest part in controllin g nuisance in late 11 Sylvia Thurpp, The Merchant Class of Medieval London, 1300 1500 (Michigan: The University of Michigan Press, 1948). 12 Ibid., ix 14; to clarify, for all intents and purposes, the merchant class was most affected by and played the largest part in controlling nuisance as a whole. However, since only secular records were opposed to those that were han dled by the Church courts. 13 Ibid; and see Barron, 308 355, for a list of the mayors and sheriffs of late medieval London. 14 Refer to pages 78 79.


10 medieval London; however, city officials, both elected and appointed, were certainly involved, as was the crown. Below the king, the mayor, aldermen, and sheriffs were the most significant officials when it came to responding to complai nts, settling disputes, and ensuring that the city continued to run smoothly. 15 The population estimates of London during this period, before and after the mid fourteenth century Black Death, vary considerably. Gwen Williams, along with other historians, e stimated that the population hovered around thirty to forty thousand at the beginning of the fourteenth century, while Caroline M. Barron suggested that it could have been as high as one hundred thousand. By 1377, Sylvia Thrupp estimated that the populati on had recovered from the immediate post plague depopulation to around thirty three thousand based on the poll tax returns, which could have possibly matched the pre plague population of 1340, according to Williams (but in contrast to Barron). Regardless of the accuracy of these figures, London contained a larger population than any other English town during this period; consequently, Londoners lived within very close proximity to one another. 16 The remainder of this first chapter examines some of the so cial effects of packed population compared with the smaller communities of England. The following section analyzes the community through the concerns of individual residents and their neighbors. More specifically, these concerns r evolved around the desire of citizens to maintain small, yet safe pockets of private spaces within 15 Barron, London 121 172; through this work, the distinction is made between those members of the communit 16 Ibid., 237 239; Thrupp, The Merchant Class 1, 41 52; Gwyn A. Williams, Medieval London: From Commune to Capital (London: The Athlone Press, 1970), 315 317; P hilip Ziegler, The Black Death (New York: Harper & Row, 1969), 151 London 238.


11 the large crowded city. Continuing with the theme of community related situations that ses on the care of with inheritances, city officials oversaw the care of these merchant orphans, ensuring that they remained within the community of merchants. While Hanawalt credited a caring culture with the care of orphans, it seems highly likely that other factors, such as the desire to protect the city from prospective vagrants, played a role. Private Space and Community The large urban setting of London led to different ways of attempting to control community related nuisances that stood apart from smaller English communities, of which Marjorie McIntosh analyzed social regulation and community concerns. Despite concentrating on small communities alone, her work still pr ovides a good beginning point for analyzing specific aspects of the community concerns of Londoners. By comparing her research to that of the larger city of London, different neighborhood concerns emerge between the two communities different nuisances. B oth London and small communities valued privacy, but they regulated nuisances that infringed on privacy in different ways due to differences in population density, building density, and the boundaries or lack thereof between neighbors. The smaller communi desire to protect their privacy has been revealed mainly through eavesdropping complaints, which were not included in the records for London. However, even though


12 of London vividly demonstrated their value of privacy and private space in other ways. McIntosh paired eavesdropping with nightwalking in her study, mainly because both offenses most commonly occurred at night. According to McIntosh: conversations or sometimes observing their private acts, while nightwalkers, found wandering around after sunset with no reason that seemed legitimate to respectable people, were suspecte 17 While McIntosh classified both offences as less common than others in medieval towns, nightwalking, which will be discussed in more detail in chapter three, appears fairly often in the records from London. However, ea vesdropping has not shown up once in the sources which have been examined. Perhaps an increase in anonymity associated with a larger urban population tenements offered m ore protection from possible offenders. 18 The Assize of Buildings supposedly first organized in 1189 with subsequent versions in the records from the start of the fourteenth century, called for strict regulations concerning various aspects of neighboring that two neighbours wish to build between themselves a stone wall, each of them ought to give one foot and a half of his land; and so at their joint cost they shall build a stone 17 McIntosh, Controlling Misbehavior 65. 18 ras. See Ruth Mazo Karras, Common Women: Prostitution and Sexuality in Medieval England (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), 14.


13 wall 19 It seems that it had these boundaries. 20 Good walls made good neighbors. Even with no specific evid ence of eavesdropping in medieval London, sources reveal that the protection of privacy was still a concern. Within the Assize of Nuisance various complaints appear concerning apertures, or windows, overlooking tenements 21 As also noted in the introduction to the Assize of Nuisance this type of complaint did not find its ordinance counterpart within the Assize of Buildings The Assize of Buildings only touched on window construction of a neighboring residence. 22 Within the Assize of Nuisance window height appears to have been set at no less than sixteen feet by 1316, with lower windows and apertures drawing comp laints throughout the rest of the Assize land only 9 ft. from the ground, four windows in his hall only 4 ft. from the ground and two apertures 9 ft. f 23 Since boundary walls needed to be a least 19 Chronicles of the Mayors and She riffs of London: 1188 1274 (1863), 179 187. [Hereinafter Buildings]; see also the introduction to Nuisance ix xxxiv. 20 See McIntosh, Controlling Misbehavior 65 66 for clarification. 21 Nuisance 28, 24 35, 92, 100 101. 22 Buildings, all. 23 Nuisance 83, 49, and xxvii.


14 sixteen feet high, the rule for windows seems to have applied only to the sides of neighboring buildings that served as boundary markers. The complaints about invasions of privacy appear to ha ve arisen from the tenants themselves and their concern for privacy. From 1301 to 1346, there were approximately thirty private business. From 1347 to 1427, there were approxi mately forty complaints, and fifteen of those occurred between the years 1379 1427. The largest chunk of complaints occurred between the years 1339 and 1356. 24 Considering any effects of the Black Death, the high number of pre plague privacy related compl aints that were recorded from 1339 1347 about same amount as in 1347 1356 makes a plague/privacy connection seem unlikely. Conceivably, a connection may have existed between this apparent increase in the desire for privacy and the outbreak of the Hundred 1453), but without more direct evidence, it remains speculation. Other than the complaints concerning privacy between neighbors, the Assize of Nuisance contains various other annoyances conveyed from one neighbor to another, such as the land, wh ich it floods, whereas they ought to receive and carry of the water from his house 25 24 Ibid., all. 25


15 26 house falls upon their land. 27 These complaints not only reflect urban nuisances between neighbors, but also highlight that Londoners were very protective of their private spaces. Within the busy, densely popul commodity an escape, to which next door neighbors represented a significant threat. Other disputes between neighbors included the placing of timber or other materials onto a ear his tenement, and is so full of sewage that it overflows and penetrates his stone wall, and etc. the defs. wall the cess pit with stone and remove it 2 ft. from complain that the cess 28 Boundaries between neighbors in late medieval London were important both for the protection of private space and for the general desire to protect on 26 27 Nuisance 20 and 45. 28 Ibid., 16, 33, 44, 61 62, 68.


16 another led to other types of boundary infractions other ty pes of nuisances beyond the invasion of privacy. Even if a properly constructed wall and a lack of apertures kept peeping eyes out, cesspools and chimneys could still become nuisances and threats to led to a tightening of boundaries in order to control the nuisances that arose from a larger population sharing a smaller space. The comp laints listed above, while shedding light on some aspects of the relationship between fourteenth century London neighbors, also give an indication of the frequency of nuisances between neighbors. Of course, without population figures and an indication of population density throughout the time period, a more precise numerical figure for the frequency of nuisances between close neighbors cannot be attained. Nevertheless, the statement that nuisances were most common between close neighbors is not far fetche frequency of crime between rural neighbors. No, London was not rural England, and nuisance was different from violent crime; however, an examination of her argument for the proximity of rur al crime inadvertently adds more support to the argument that there was a strong connection between nuisance and neighbors in London. Considering the rural situation in the early fourteenth century, Hanawalt, in Crime and Conflict in English Communities, 1300 1348 were more likely to suffer felonious attack from neighbors, friends, or acquaintances than


17 29 The evidence that she cited from criminal records concerns the proximity of the victim and the accused. In her records, they either came from the same village or were within five miles. Furthermore, according to therefore, the victim and the accused lived sufficiently close to each other that they would ha ve been acquainted. Medieval crime would thus seem to be predominantly a 30 Now, the proximity factor seems to be fairly obvious for village crime, but it might be a bit of a stretch to say that because all villagers within ten miles knew each other, they were all neighbors, and therefore medieval crime as a whole was crimes occurred between close neighbors. When considering nuisance in London, it seems obvious that there was a direct correlation between nuisance and proximity between nuisance and neighbors. This is not to say that other types of nuisance, such as the insults, vagrancy, or road blockages discussed in later chapters, did not occur more common, more frequent nuisances occurred between neighbors simply due to their more regular contact between one another and their inescapable proximity to one another. t crime, the neighborhood element with regards to 29 Barbara Hanawalt, Crime and Conflict in English Communities 1300 1348 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1979), 168. 30 Ibid., 168 170.


18 nuisance can be narrowed down to occurring most frequently between the closest neighbors. Despite the regulations aimed at keeping the peace and maintaining boundaries between neighbors, a more cooperative community element was also present in London. Rural England may have experienced closer neighborhood relationships both good and bad simply because of the size and increased anonymity associated with urban life in London, an element of neighborly coopera tion still existed among Londoners who shared neighbourhood of Gracechurch that the sh resort of bad characters, who sprang out on passers 31 Furthermore, the community also d emonstrated this element of cooperation when it came to caring for children and the prevention of nuisance in this regard. Orphans and Community Parents and Neighbors in Medi more involved in child protection and care than their rural counterparts because they were surrounded by a greater number of children. 32 However, concerning orphaned children 31 PMR Roll A 5. 32 Hanawalt, 166 172.


19 specifically, city offici als were more responsible for their protection and care than neighbors. According to Hanawalt, Londoners tended to rely more on city officials and official regulations when it came to the care of orphans than on making personal decisions concerning the f ates of homeless children; yet, according to Hanawalt, this did not mean that the community was less concerned about children as a whole, and it would be inaccurate to suggest that all children were regarded as nuisances to the neighborhood. She cited sev eral examples from London records illustrating the protective role of neighbors over their local children, including a man who was killed in his attempt to protect a mother and child from a galloping horse. 33 Regarding the care of orphans specifically, H involved relatives, neighbors, or the citizens of London as a whole. As mentioned above, the fate of orphans in London, as opposed to man y rural settings, was primarily in the hands of city officials, represented by the mayor and aldermen. Along with this, many laws and regulations aimed at protecting the interests of orphans. To be clear, most of the orphans were the offspring of free citizens of London, and might still have one surviving parent, usually the mother, for example: 33 Ibid.


20 Andrew, Richard, and Henry, sons of the said John le Platier, and of the property left to them by their said father to the value of £47; to ha ve the custody of the same until the said children shall arrive at full age. And for so doing the said guardians pledge themselves and their property (1305). 34 being and inheritances of orphans b y ensuring that they received adequate guardianship, that they received all of their inheritance from the guardian when they came of age, and that guardianship did not to pass to anyone who could profit from the death of the child. 35 Even though many of th e orphans still had a surviving parent, they could not be entrusted to that parent if they they did not lose their original social status. Most of the time, the mayor and alderman (or the will of the deceased) sought to entrust orphans into the custody of kin, but if no adequate guardian could be found, the child was entrusted into the custody of the chamberlain. If the child was poor and had no goods to bring into the relationship, then the city paid any expenses necessary for the raising of the child. In short, the city strove to ensure that no child of a London citizen was left behind. 36 34 CLB: C : 1291 1309 ed. R. R. Sharpe (London, 1901), folio cxxv. 35 Of course, other types of orphan care, such as the taking in of a poor o rphan by a relative or friendly citizen, may also have occurred regularly, even though they did not show up in the records. 36 Barbara A. Hanawalt, Growing Up in Medieval London: The Experience of Childhood in History (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1993 ), 90 97.


21 T he reasons for these various laws and regulations, according to Hanawalt, revolved around a concern for the well being of orphaned children. She argued that the being, as illustra ted by the abovementioned regulations, all support this position. Due to the 37 Hanawalt acknowledged that the laws and regulations for orphans that aimed at keeping them within the same social class helped to strengthen the horizontal bonds that were valued in a society of merchants, rather than the p atrilineal bonds valued by noble families outside of the city. However, rather than citing this as another motive for the product of these 38 Yet, it seems as if the class issu e could have represented a significant reason for their protection; after all, why not look after all orphans if the primary motivation was to nurture and care for them? In addition to the merchant class looking out for their own, another motive for ensur ing the proper protection of young orphans could have been for the protection of the city itself and the prevention of additional nuisance. True, the more chaotic nature of urban life in general, with its high population, higher crime rate, and strangers and aliens coming and going, seems to be reflected in the official regulations that protected orphans from these very issues. However, by keeping orphans within a well 37 Ibid., 93. 38 Ibid., 107.


22 wi thin the city. By protecting these orphans, city officials also protected the city. Through these regulations, orphans were essentially put on a path which could add to the eir own delinquency in the Middle Ages. This is not to say that a lack of adequate pare nting can actually be identified with criminal behavior or the creation of a vagabond, but rather, over the well 39 Furthermore, the well documented rise in the general concern over vagrancy following the Black Death also coincides with an increase in cases focusing on orphan care. Not to be ignored, Hanawalt pointed out that the effects of the Black Death left the city with wealthier orphans than in pre plague London, who had greater inheritances due to the loss of many competing siblings. 40 Thus, the surge in concern over orphans following the mid fourteenth century, as reflected in the Letter Books could simply reflect the desire t o protect the wealth of the many new orphan survivors. However, the number of cases involving orphans remained high into the fifteenth century, so it seems plausible that a secondary reason for this new level of concern was the general change in attitudes following the plague, where vagrants and idle wanderers faced harsher penalties and more discrimination. 41 39 Trevor Dean, Crime in Medieval Europe 1200 1550 (London: Longman, 2001), 21. 40 Hanawalt, Growing Up 95. 41 Refer to the beginning of the third chapter.


23 officials helped to prevent them from falling into a life of vagrancy and becoming part of Whether or not one reason for the official care of orphans was favored over others, the point remains that the citizens of London entrusted the care of orphans, including decisions of guardianship, to city officials most of the tim e, becoming personally involved in the fate of orphans much less frequently than their rural counterparts. Thus, orphan care within the city became an official matter, another form of social regulation that made London life distinct from that of smaller c ommunities. based on the management of orphans; rather, the differences in the way the community was regulated and the way the community regulated itself reflected its needs wh ich were based on a large urban setting. Not only did many more orphans exist in London, but, as a part of the merchant community, these orphans had inheritances. The city officials, as members of the merchant community, oversaw the care of orphans; alth ough Hanawalt credited their guardianship with a caring culture, other reasons that must be to prevent members of their class from becoming nuisances and to protect the city by not allowing these many orphans to fall into a life of vagrancy. Conclusion Nuisance was a neighborhood affair. Due to the large population of London living very close to one another, private space was highly coveted. Any nuisance that


24 space triggered complaints. Most of the nuisances that medieval Londoners dealt with occurred on this stage. In addition to private space itself, privacy was highly valued and certainly not just a modern concern as hinted in A History of Private Life 42 responsible for the value that its citizens placed on their privacy and private spaces; private spaces re presented the only sanctuaries where citizens could isolate themselves from the rest of the community. Additionally, this large urban setting with its community argume deserves more credit, the urban setting of London with its community of merchants prompted this arrangement. 42 Philippe Aries and Georges Duby, eds., A History of Priv ate Life vols. II and III (Cambridge: between the medieval and modern private worlds.


25 CHAPTER II ENVIRONMENT AND SPACE OF THE COMMUNITY When Marjorie McIntosh wrote her book on controlling misbehavior in England, environmental regulation received less than a paragraph of attention. 43 Although the betwe role of environmental regulation in her history of social regulation in England. To be fair, the necessary records in order to study small community environmental regulatio n might not be available, or perhaps most small communities in England simply lacked a significant amount of environmental regulations, either through a lack of need or interest. One point is for certain: the environmental needs and nuisances of a large u rban population such as London demanded many clear regulations. A few historians, such as environmental history, including butchering and city cleaning. 44 However, none have really painted a complete picture of the environmental nuisances and regulations of this and regulations, from keeping the streets clean to clearing the air of foul smells, were 43 McIntosh, Controlling Misbehavior 68. 44 For these referen ces, refer to page 6 of the first chapter.


26 interconnected and thus cannot be studied in isolation from one another if a complete understanding of environmental regulation in late medieval London is to be reached. stu died as a whole in order to understand the concerns of the community as a whole. Specifically, through an analysis of the environmental concerns of the community, this chapter analyzes how Londoners valued their public spaces and defined the nuisances the became the personal concerns of its citizens when they threatened either their personal safety or their private spaces. Anything that dealt specifically with the maint enance and well being of the city, such as dumping trash in the streets, most directly concerned city officials. Citizens likely cared about these environmental nuisances as well, but the records more clearly reveal that their official complaints focused on their personal safety and the preservation of their own private spaces within the city. Before diving into the environmental aspect of social regulation, some clarification is in order. The regulations addressed in this chapter refer to medieval, not m odern, mentalities. This did not equate to urban environmental concerns based on scientific theories of disease. Health concerns stimulated many of the regulations, but they were based on medieval theories. Some parallels between medieval and modern att itudes can be seen, such as concerns with keeping traffic ways clear and avoiding putrid smells. However, when the medieval fear of disease via air contamination is paired with the distaste for bad smells, a clear distinction emerges between medieval and modern understanding.


27 Most importantly, though, while the medieval idea of environment was different from the modern in many respects, the most essential distinction to be made in this chapter is that the material deals with an urban environment with spe cifically urban concerns. This chapter focuses on environmental concerns which were related to, were caused by, and directly affected, the lives of people, not environmental concern for the sake of protecting the environment alone (forestry, for example). From foul smells to blocked roads, urban environmental problems were nuisances. As the examples from the sources will demonstrate, medieval Londoners wanted to protect their urban environment for the sake of the comfort and well being of people, the pra ctical and efficient operation of the city, and the maintenance of city business. more appropriately be labeled as social regulations. As established above, the environmental concerns that stimulated medieval regulations aimed at protecting the environment an urban space. Obviously, the air, water, and physical spaces that medieval Londoners inh used, the more relevant social meanings behind the environmental concerns must be kept in mind. Pavement and Construction line M. Barron, in London in the Later Middle Ages


28 gardens attached to them, and for those Londoners who had no private garden there were plenty of green open spaces. Most of the city churches had churchyards where people 45 Yes, churches had churchyards, and many people had private gardens, but the citations she gave for these statements do not indicate the 46 Furthermore, while gardens and open space s may have existed, so did a maze of narrow streets and passageways, often tucked away within the shadows of structures two to four stories high with the upper stories projecting out over the streets. 47 Indeed, medieval London can easily fall within the pr e automobile city of 48 Due, in part, to the narrowness of the streets, passageways, and lanes, the maintenance of public ways was vital to the operation of the city. Th is included both paving and cleaning. From the end of the thirteenth century and into the fourteenth, pavers were appointed by each ward for the purpose of constructing and repairing the and Nicholas de Brackele, paviors of London, were sworn to make the pavement throughout the streets and places of the City only in the manner most commodious for the public, and according 49 Later in the fourteenth centu 45 Barron, London 252. 46 Nuisance 138; CLB: G: 1352 1374 ed. R. R. Sharpe (London, 1905), folio ccliv. Barron only cited page 265 within Letter Book G, but she seemed to be referring to folio ccliv. 47 Sabine, 48 J. B. Jackson, The Necessity for Ruins and Other Topics (Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1980), 55 66. 49 CLB: C folio lxx; Barron, London 261.


29 dies out in the records; scavengers appear to have taken over this duty, along with 50 In addition to appointing people for the task of maintaining the pavement, the ci tizens were expected to keep the pavement in front of their own properties in good condition. 51 Several examples highlight the need for citizens to construct or repair the pavement in front of their pavement in the road by [sub] 52 case of fire, it is adjudged that the sheriff warn the dean and canons living near the days etc. each make a pavement state is to the damage of John de Chibenherst and the o 53 What is not entirely clear from the examples included in the Assize of Nuisance is whether the neighbors or the city officials were responsible for the initial complaints. Although the records state that the ruinous pavements en dangered citizens, no records that feature ruinous pavements actually give credit to the citizens and neighbors, either by name or as a whole, for requesting that the pavements be repaired. Considering that neighbors and citizens routinely complained abou t other nuisances within the Assize there seems to have been a difference in the way that ruinous pavements were reported. Perhaps since 50 CLB: G, were possibly used for pavers, according to Sabine. 51 Barron, London 261. 52 53 Nuisance 29 and 39.


30 pavements fell under the definition of public space, it became an official matter and not something that a typical ci tizen would take action to correct. Unfortunately, it is not pavements were motivated first by the complaints of the citizens. Flooding as a result of improperly con structed pavements, on the other hand, more clearly had an effect on the citizens and directly concerned those who dwelled e neighbours and is apparent to the men t the water can follow its former course 54 Flooding, along with the proper washing away of filth, may have been the concern here, but this next example from 1380 more clearly demonstrates that citizens were personally concerned with how the water drained within the city: and pavement near la Grate at London Wall, causing filth and refuse, which used to run down the streets and pass through the grate into the cend into the Walbrook and choke up the bed of the because the grate was not big enough to receive the amount of water 54 Ibid., 29.


31 descending in rainy seasons, whereby the houses in the neighbourhood b 55 Unfortunately, the record does not describe the solution to this conflict. Nevertheless, the nuisances caused by both flooding and the accumulation of filth are clear. The offenders destroyed part of the wall and pavement to ease the flooding problems experienced by controlling nuisance in an environment such as London: sometimes, relieving certain people of one nuisance only created a new nuisance for others. Not to say that these citizens deliberately and knowingly caused problems for another neighborhood in order to get rid of their own inconvenience, but it does appe ar that they acted out of self interest for their own neighborhood, rather than for the good of the community as a whole. Although the root of the problem was the public grate and pavement, the resulting flooding that invaded their private space motivated them to take action in the public arena. Officially speaking, the goal of regulations was to control nuisance for the general benefit of all who shared the public spaces. The construction and repair of buildings, ditches, walls, and the like was, simil officials. Anything which could either impede traffic on the streets or pose a danger to passers free entry and exit of the tenement of Sir John of Brittany, would hinder carts carrying 55 PMR Roll A 24.


32 56 of Ludegate and Neugate in time of rovided that such building be not a nuisance to the extends from the outer gate of the Guildhall to the middle gate of the entrance of which part is ruinous, to the great danger of the passers 57 complaining party. If the record is acc urate and the citizens did complain about the stone wall, they appear to have done so because their personal safety was at risk. Even though the space in question existed within the realm of public space, the ruinous wall endangered their physical well be ing. Public space was an official matter until the citizens either feared for their personal well being or the well being of their private spaces. The following discussion of fire prevention within the city clarifies this point even further. Another per tinent reason for the city officials to regulate construction was for the prevention of fire. Frequent fires occurred in the city throughout the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and after an especially devastating fire erupted in 1212, the king created the Assize of Buildings in order to regulate potential fire hazards. The regulations focused on 56 57 CLB: D: 1309 1314 ed. R. R. Sharpe (London, 1902) folio cl b; CLB: G Folio cclxxxv b; Nuisance 44 45.


33 limiting wooden buildings and straw roofs. 58 As seen in this example from the 1370s, these types of regulations continued to be enforced well after the initial As size 59 with straw against the ordinance, the Sheriffs were ordered to warn the above persons to strip their roofs within forty days, on pain of having the work done f or them at their 60 Additional regulations which aimed at fire prevention and control included making sure that hooks and ladders were handy, and seeing that all citizens kept a water filled vessel i n front of their property, especially during dryer periods, 61 while carefully watching their own domestic fires to ensure that they did not spread out of control: person was bound to guar d his fire so that no damage might thereby s hop and a solar lying over a gate, and several pieces of timber were torn 62 58 Barron, London 247. 59 60 PMR Roll A 22. 61 PMR Roll A 20. 62 Ibid., Roll A 22.


34 Nuisances that could arise between neighbors have already been discussed in the part of that list. 63 Once again, the individual, self interest of the citizen motivated his negligence. As with the building r egulations, fire prevention was an official matter; yet, evidence again points to this pattern. City Cleaning and Animals The city appointed certain officials not only to see that the pavement was kept in good repair, but also to supervise the cleaning of the streets. Rakers, for example, cleared streets of rubbish by collecting i t onto carts. 64 As with the pavement, though, citizens were also expected to do their part. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly when citizens were first expected to uphold street cleaning regulations; it may simply be that as long as general city cleaning was a concern, citizens necessarily had a role in its upkeep. In his article on city cleaning, Sabine convincingly demonstrated that London had an elaborate city cleaning regimen from at least the thirteenth century onward. 65 As part of this official reg imen, citizens were either fined or arrested for blatantly contributing to the 63 CLB: K: Henry VI ed. R. R. Sharpe (London, 1911), folio 37. 64 Barron, London 262. 65 Sabine


35 66 Similar to the regulations that focused on the m and buildings, the regulations that focused on keeping the streets clean and free of filth were also intended to keep the streets safe and passable. In addition, these regulations focused on keeping the public space of th e city free from obnoxious sights and odors. While odors were obnoxious in themselves, fear of disease via contamination represented an additional concern of smelly streets. Sabine argued that occurrences of plague during the fourteenth century tended to disrupt city cleaning activities, which led to a general decline of the environmental condition of the streets and passageways. However, despite a temporary lapse in cleaning, the plague stimulated a greater fear of disease, so that once city cleaning ac streets clean and safe from disease. 67 Again, it remains unclear whether these regulations were stimulated by the direct complaining of citizens or if they originated from the offici als alone in their attempt to maintain an orderly urban environment. In the example below, the order to remove the heaps of filth that accumulated on Tower Hill came from the king; although the citizens did indeed complain about obnoxious smells, as the f inal section on butchering will show, the dumping of filth and rubbish appears to have caught 66 PMR Roll A 10 (ii) and Roll A 13. 67 Ibid., 27 29.


36 the eye (and nose) of city officials and the king most often, at least as far as the records reveal. If the citizens did indeed stimulate the creation of most of the city cleaning regulations through their complaints, the records did not include them. Problematic dumping grounds for rubbish not only included public streets or streams, but also the Thames river. The Thames frequently fell victim to all sorts of fi lth and waste matter produced by the city. Citizens deposited filth both in the Thames and on its banks, drawing regulations that attempted to counter this activity. 68 These regulations seemed to have inspired the citizens to seek a new dumping area on To wer Hill, which was in turn the subject of various regulations during the later fourteenth century: Writ to the Mayor and Sheriffs, drawing attention to the accumulation of refuse, filth and other fetid matter on Tower Hill, whereby the air was foully cor rupted and vitiated and the lives of those dwelling or passing there were endangered. The King is unwilling that these intolerable conditions shall continue, and insists that the place shall be cleansed and kept clean under penalty of 100 marks. 69 Unsurp risingly, the Tower Hill regulations appear to have led to an increase in dumping in the Thames once again. 70 Any stream or ditch which carried water to the Thames would have also carried the waste matter it had collected along the way from latrines and th e like, in addition to the public latrines that dumped their contents directly into the 68 Ibid., 32 and 37 38. 69 PMR Roll A 17. 70 39.


37 Thames. 71 However, by the late fifteenth century onward, restrictions on the building of latrines over running water (directly involving the Thames and otherwise) had b een put into place in favor of the more odor ordi nance forbidding the over the Walbrook or upon any of the town ditches, and ordering the abatement of those already in existence 72 Aside from the comp laints in the Assize of Nuisance that focused on private cesspools having been constructed too close to a neighbors wall, or rubbish having been left on a neighbors property, the general regulations for cesspool construction and city cleaning appear to hav e originated with the city officials and the king in their attempt to maintain the decency of the public space of the city. Not only did cesspools (or cesspits) conceal odor, but they also helped eliminate a possible source of obstruction of flowing water within the city. The dumping of waste matter and rubbish, in addition to the foul smells it produced, blocked up roadways and waterways. These regulations helped to ensure that the city ran smoothly without obstructions in the highways and pathways, and they also, quite simply, kept the city from falling into ruins. Several records have image and making sure that it could run smoothly if it needed to be defended from a n invading force. 73 71 318. 72 CLB: L: Edward IV Henry VII ed. R. R. Sharpe (Lon 73 Refer to the example on page 31.


38 and the preservation of their private space. The maintenance of the passageways may have been more of an official concern (at least as far as the records will show), but for reasons similar to those mentioned above, the many animals that roamed city official alike. off of certain properties, the threat of roaming animals also mo tivated citizens to ensure Euere has overthrown the fence of the churchyard, so that pigs and other animals and even men enter it by night and day, and carry off the plan ts growing there, and commit 74 Similar complaints are found throughout the records. In addition to being a nuisance, the presence of animals within the city also compromise d the safety of citizens and other pets and livestock. A dogfight in 1307 led to the death of one of their owners, and in 1366 75 Initially, regulations from the thirteenth century to the middle of the fourteenth forbade by the streets or l anes of the City or suburb, nor in the ditches of the City; and if found they shall be killed by whoever finds them, and the killer shall have them without challenge or redemption for 4 pence from the owner. Whoever wishes to feed his pigs, 74 Nuisance 13. 75 PMR Roll A12.


39 let him feed t 76 77 In one case from 1365, a tanner was ordered to remove his pigs from the city and agreed not to rear pigs in the city in the future. 78 Since there does not seem to be any other mention of an ordinance that forbade citizens from keeping pigs in the city (unless they were simply left to wander in the streets), this may have been an exception. By the late s gentry. 79 Aside from the problematic presence of animals themselves, their waste was an additional concern. Although citizens were supposed to allow rakers to carry the du ng away from their home in carts to the dung boats or other approved dumping areas, the more convenient method of simply dumping dung anywhere within the city was a recurring threat to the cleanliness and general operation of the streets, lanes, waterways and ditches. 80 In addition to dumping it illegally, letting dung pile up could also have Mayor and Aldermen for having a large dung heap on the banks of the Thames next to h is house at Billingsgate, to the detriment of the Thames water, the damage of the 76 77 CLB : A: 1275 1298 ed. R. R. Sharpe (London, 1899), folio 129 b. 78 PMR Roll A 10 (ii). 79 London 255 and footnote 34 from CLB: H folio ccxviii. 80 CLB: I: 1400 1422 ed. R. R. Sharpe (London, 1909), folios 1xi lxx.


40 brought a bill of complaint against Thomas Bermyngham, cordwainer, for damage done to the fix 81 This last example most clearly demonstrates that dung piles could easily have become a nuisance to the common citizen by defiling private property, in t his case, that of a landlord. Along with generally keeping the streets clean, proclamations that aimed at keeping them free of dung were repeated beyond the fourteenth century. However, aside from a few early mentions of regulating the dumping of dung, mo st of the proclamations occurred after the mid fourteenth century. As with street cleaning, a concern definitely existed prior to the Black Death, but the records more frequently repeat these regulations after the plague. These records did not specificall y show that citizens regularly complained about the smell of trash, filth, and dung within the city; yet, if it bothered officials, it more than likely bothered the citizens even though their complaints did not show up in the records, especially when they directly connected bad smells to their health and personal well being. The next section supports this point further, and the complaints against butchers reveal these concerns more clearly. Fish and Flesh Many bothersome trade activities drew complaint s and regulations, such as those restricting the work of blacksmiths and other tradesmen to certain times of the day in 81 PMR Roll A 25 and Ro ll A 18.


41 order to control the noise. 82 However, this section will only focus specifically on the two trades which arguably drew the most environm ental regulations and were the biggest nuisances: butchering and fishing. Although in markedly different ways, the trades of fish and flesh each affected the environment of late medieval London; for instance, fishing could threaten the fish supply, while butchering contaminated the air and the streets with bothersome sights and smells. The regulations enacted to control fishing and butchering, whether to protect fish supplies or to prevent environmental contamination, further show that while city official s had their role, the other members of the community regularly complained about environmental nuisances when their health and personal safety were at risk, or when their private spaces were threatened. In the case of the fishmongers, their personal busine ss interest, rather than their personal safety, represented their primary concern. In late medieval London, the butchers and fishmongers each had their own guild; however, the fishmongers exercised more authority in the city government and among other trad es, such as wine, wool, and the shipping industry. By the thirteenth century, the fishmongers may have been the strongest mercantile power in London based on the number of members and their political power, such as serving regularly as sheriffs, aldermen, and councilors. 83 masters supervised their trade, and the fishmongers enforced the regulations for fishing (applying both to fishmongers and to fishermen who were not a member of the guild). Gener ally, 82 Barron, London 263 266. 83 Williams, 116, 124, 165 66, 172; also refer to footnote 113.


42 complaints or suggestions related to these trades resulted in ordinances from Parliament or from the local mayor and aldermen. Along with the tradesmen themselves, the latter were also responsible for enforcement. An entry in the Letter Books from the 1380s gives an example of a paid recruit, Sergeant John Salisbury, appointed to survey fishing practices. The record does not specify exactly who appointed him, perhaps the mayor and aldermen since it was to their attention that he brought illegal act ivities. He received half of the forfeitures as compensation for a five year term. 84 Complaints about the trades that resulted in regulations differed for both. Usually, fishmongers brought fishing related complaints to the authorities themselves, but, f or reasons that will soon become clear, complaints against butchering originated from citizens outside of the trade. 85 In terms of drawing regulations dealing with air contamination, water contamination, pollution, threat of disease, and general unpleasantn ess, butchering covered it all. 86 The records show numerous complaints against the butchering trade contaminating the streets, air, and water, negatively affecting senses of hearing, smell, and sight. As indicated in these examples, the unpleasant actions of the butchering trade animals, and the water mixed with the blood and hair of the slaughtered animals, and with other filth from the washing [of the carcases], flows into the ditch or kennel in the 84 Calendar of Letter Books of the City of London: H: 1375 1399 ed. R. R. Sharpe (London, 337. 85 CLB : A foli o 91; CLB: H folio cxxv b. 86 Butchers in Late The Historian vol. 70, no. 3 (Fall 2008): 450 461.


43 parish of St. Nicholas within Neugate throwing entrails on the pavement near the Friars 87 clearly invading their space; however, unpleasant odors and noises did not literally have nuisance. Even if the activities of butchers were contained within the public sphere, noises and smells could still easily than many of the other environmental nuisa nces discussed in the last two sections. This is not to say that the regulation of butchers was not an official concern as well; aside from likewise having to deal with the smell that the butchering trade produced (as well as omplaints), the officials were also concerned with the and the city officials contributed to the regulations of this bothersome trade. Aside from the assaults on th e senses of Londoners wherever butchers operated, the biggest problem involved the disposal of offal and other beastly remains. Whether in the river or the street, within the city or outside of the city, butchers tried using all of the above as disposal a reas; likewise, complaints and regulations exist in the records involving all of the above. No regulation could offer a perfect solution for everyone because, after all, the foul offal had to go somewhere The street within the city did not represent an 87 Nuisance 142; PMR Roll A 13.


44 Robert Odierne were attached to answer a charge of carrying trade refuse into the street at G racechurch, and feeding their pigs on it, thus defiling the street. Both afterwards paid a 88 In addition to the foulness of street defilement, a case from 1422 r passable, thus impeding city traffic as an additional nuisance. 89 Most commonly though, defilement of the street occurred as a means to an end: offal fell off of carts onto the streets during its journey to another destination, such as the Thames. 90 Freq uently, Londoners complained 91 Disposal at the Thames had a variety of guises throughout this period. Most basically, butchers would throw offal into the Thames at t he shore or off of docks, 92 the cause of many complaints. A 1369 writ called for the still complained about butchers disposing their filth i nto the Thames. 93 During the fourteenth century, several writs aimed at regulating the disposal of offal by restricting butchers to doing their slaughtering outside of the city. As Sabine pointed out, no clear evidence exists to confirm that butchers obey ed these regulations. The apparent need to renew these regulations throughout the century indicate that enforcement was a problem; 88 PM R Roll A 5. 89 90 PM R, Roll A 13. 91 CLB: G folio ccxlvi b. 92 Not literally a bridge, but more of a dock or pier. 93 CLB: G, folios ccxxvii b and ccxlvi b.


45 however, by the late fourteenth century, butchers were likely butchering outside of the city to some degree, enough at least ordinance passed in the previous Parliament forbidding the slaughtering of beasts by butchers within the City and certain limits of the same, whereby the price of meat had been unduly enhanced, and praying th at the Mayor and Aldermen might be allowed to 93). 94 As a final solution, a house for the use of butchers was built on the edge of the Thames, and they were allowed to their offal and take it in boats to midstream and cast it into the water at ebb 95 Even though complaints about butchering activities continued throughout the fifteenth century and regular enforc ement was needed, this arrangement remained in place. 96 As already indicated at the beginning of this section, medieval Londoners despised the stench produced by the butchering trade. In addition to the obvious unpleasantness of bad smells, they also conne cted the foul odors of the butchering trade with their health, as shown in the case described below. In addition to the Thames, the Fleet was also a favorite disposal ground of London butchers. In 1342 43, city authorities gave the butchers of the parish of St. Nicholas at the Shambles land adjacent to the Fleet for the purpose of cleaning and disposing entrails. In return, the butchers made their way to Parliament. Apparently, the stench became so awful that the 94 348: CLB: L folio 85. 95 CLB: H foli o cclxxviii b. 96 353.


46 inhabitants of the nearby neighborhood and Fleet prison feared for their health. Consequently, authorities destroyed the Fleet wharf, forcing these butchers to find another place of disposal. 97 Again, the st spaces; in this case, they could not escape it by retreating to their own neighborhood. To be fair, foul smells were not the only air contaminants faced by medieval Londoners. In 1975, William H. Te Brake publishe Preindustrial London, 1250 smell) did not originate with the industrial revolution; it existed in medieval and early modern London. Due to the common shortage, and thus high prices, of wood fuel, medieval Londoners used sea coal as a substitute. Te Brake explained that the burning of sea coal released considerably more intense clouds of smoke and fumes than the burning of wood, and thus caused many complaints. Again, medieval Londoners connected the strong odor of the smoke with their health, but in this case, their reasoning to suspect the contaminating fumes was a bit more well founded. 98 certainly had its effects. In addition to the abovementioned regulations enacted to control the butchering trade, Sabine found connections between periods of plague outbreaks in London to the resurrection of complaints against butchering and the return of strict regulations against the trade. For example, he pointed out that a 1391 outbreak triggered a tightening of enforcement for butchers to only slaughter outside of the city, which in 97 CLB: F: 1337 1352 ed. R. R. Sharpe (London, 1904), folio lxvii; CLB: G folios xxviii and xxxvi. 98 Technology an d Culture 16, no. 3 (July 1975): 337 359; see also Peter Brimblecombe, The Big Smoke: A Hist ory of Air Pollution in London s ince Medieval Times (London: Methuen, 1987).


47 turn triggered the complaint about meat prices goin g up the following year. Aside from its wretched stench triggering fear of disease, butchering carried an additional stigma that encouraged its connection with disease and everything foul and dirty. It involved blood. Like surgeons, soldiers, and execut ioners, butchering involved the common taboo of blood and general impurity, which carried with it a certain general repulsiveness that could also be connected to sin. 99 The regulations of butchers, including the complaints leading up to them, reveal many details on what concerned medieval Londoners about their environment. On top of introduced unclean elements such as unsightly blood and odor that not only interfered with the comfort of daily life, but also triggered fears of disease by way of environmental contamination (regardless of scientific accuracy). The biggest concern of the average h noise or smell as several examples have indicated. As far as the king and the city officials were concerned, the butchers also contributed to the presence of filth in the public spaces of the city, namely streets and streams, both blocking them up and b ecoming an eyesore. On top of these motives, the fear of disease fed the need for regulations for everyone. The fear of bad air has already been addressed; additionally, the fear of bad water was also evident in the records. According to a previous exam Londoners did not want to live in filth, sharing their space with putrid odors for reasons 99 Jacques Le Goff, Your Money or Your Life trans. Patricia Ranum (New York: Zone Book s, 1990), 47.


48 of disease prevention and general comfort of living. By popular demand, the smelly, invasive butchering trade needed regulations. The fishing trade also needed regulations, but for different reasons. Most of the environmentally related ordinances for fishing and fishmongers concerned the protecti on using nets with too small of a mesh that trapped these fish. This practice was a nuisance to other fishmongers and fishermen who wanted to ensure that the common fish supply did not become depleted. In short, their motive was largely generated by self interest; the environment of the Thames needed to be regulated in order to protect their business. In this case, their personal interests depended on the regulation of public space. However, city officials also regulated fishing practices, likely motivated by the need to protect the fish as a food source of the city. Generally, ordinances from the late thirteenth century through the early fifteenth prescribed at least a two exceptions allowing nets to have a mesh half of an inch to an inch smaller (explained below), two inches remained the rule throughout this period. Numerous cases from the Letter Books and Plea and Memoranda R olls highlight the problem of fishers breaking 100 The frequent recurrence of violations and attempts at regulation indicate both the difficulty of en forcement and the concern of the administration, including fishmongers, regarding the protection of smaller fish. 100 CLB: H folio cxxv b


49 One specific case from 1386 sheds a little more light on the situations when one inch mesh would be used instead of two. In this case, the mayor and aldermen inquired as when and why nets of certain sizes needed to be used. The defendants argued that they needed to use smaller nets to fish for smelt, because they slipped through larger mesh, and that traditionally they only used these nets d mayor and aldermen agreed that fishermen were allowed to fish with one inch nets during the proper season for these fish. Ho wever, as a preventive measure against the useless destruction of other fish, after this season had passed, the fishermen needed to store the one inch nets in the meantime. 101 Another regula tion of nets concerning the protection of fry fish, especially regarding trinks, aimed at fixed nets in the Thames, whether staked in the river or fixed to named shall remove all trinks and o 102 Other references to these destructive nets popped up throughout the end of the fourteenth century. A reference in the Letter Books from 1424, likewise called for the removal of tened or anchored in the Thames and other rivers, as they destroyed the fry of 103 101 PMR Roll A 27. 102 CLB: H folio cxx. 103 CLB: K folio 21 b.


50 The staking of nets in the Thames appears to have caused an additional problem beyo nd endangering fish. Shipping traffic needed to flow through the river without interference from trinks and other obstructions. While most of the records examined illiam Taillour of Popelere was mainprised by . fishmongers, not to place in the Thames any net that was contrary to the City assize . ., nor put any posts in the water so as to impede 104 and a writ to the Mayor from 1421 ordered city of ficials to survey the 105 Presumably, the purpose of these posts and stakes was to anchor trinks in the Thames; in addition to their destruction of fry fish, ancho red trinks also appear to have posed a danger to vessels. Here, the safety of the Thames, as a public space, was a concern in addition to the protection of fish. As these cases demonstrate, regular enforcement was needed to maintain stability within the fishing trade; without enforcement, the fishers would have likely done as they pleased to increase their profit, whatever the consequences to the Thames fish supply and to the rest of the fishermen and fishmongers. Naturally, the regulations met with resi stance, hence the violations seen in the city records. One particularly dramatic case from 1406 07 illustrates the resistance of net regulation enforcement. When Alexander y to eight named residents of Kent and Essex and 104 PM R, Roll A 24. 105 CLB: I folio cclxiv b.


51 on the Thames with bows and arrows until he disembarked at Barking. 106 Alexande r submitted the nets to the mayor for examination, but before a judgment could be made were arrested, found guilty, and given permission to use their nets temporarily only if commonly, though, violators had their unlawful nets burnt and were possibly fined. 107 Overall, the regulations for fishing reveal details about what social and environmental th reats concerned medieval London authorities and fishmongers. The general upkeep of the Thames, that it needed to remain unobstructed, concerned them for reasons mentioned above. Most vividly, the regulations for protecting fry fish, which included using proper sized mesh and fishing for certain fish only during the proper seasons, protected the business supply of the fishmongers. Environmental concern was commensurate with the economic concern of guarding the fishing business; if the fish population wer e depleted, fishmongers had less, or perhaps nothing, to sell. Furthermore, the regulations protected not only the fishing business, but the food supply of medieval London. Unlike meat, the cheaper fish made up a very large proportion of the poor medieva 108 found fishing with such net . ., the nets should be burnt and the owner put to such 106 An East London borough. 107 CLB: I folios lxiib lxii ; CLB : H folio cxcvi. 108 Thrupp, The Merchant Class, 95.


52 penance, at the discretion of the Mayor and Aldermen, as befitting one who destroyed the commo 109 While regulations of fishing nets and the protection of fry certainly dominated the fishing industry with other types of environmental contamination. An entry in the Letter Books from 1276 110 In this case, the regulation likely referred to the fishmongers themselves, who both enforced regulatio ns for fishing and were required to follow the regulations placed on them by city officials. Furthermore, an example from 1389 made as to who had caused unwholesome fish to be stored i n a cellar . it was the property of Salamon Salamon, a mercer, who had already been found responsible for 111 Even though concerns over environmental contamination dominated the concerns and regulations of bu tchering and not fishing, the latter could still cause this type of nuisance. Far from going unnoticed, the environmental presence of butchers drew a considerable amount of complaints, especially those related to smell, filth, and general well being. It demonstrated even further that the citizens of medieval London became directly involved in controlling the nuisances of public spaces most often when they threatened their personal health and safety or their private spaces, the importance of 109 PM R, Roll A 27. 110 CLB: A folio 129 b. 111 CLB: H folio ccxlvii.


53 which was dis cussed in the previous chapter. The fishing trade, while more aesthetically pleasing, still likewise drew many complaints about its activities and the need for strict fish protected themselves and their environment from butchers; on the other hand, the fishmongers protected their environment from those who abused the fish supply for the sake of the ir trade. As previously mentioned, the fishmongers were among the most prominent trades of medieval London not so the butchers. Considering Sandra seventeenth centur y English drama, the fishmongers were commonly portrayed as honest and noble, while the butchers appeared as representations of the devil. 112 Although much later in the timeline, these attitudes can easily fit this period, especially considering that the fi shmongers were much more powerful than the butchers within the city and city politics. 113 While the environmental aspects of these two trades may not have influenced their different positions of power, considering all of the complaints against butchers, it is difficult to believe that environmental factors did not play a role. 112 Folklore vol. 101, no. 1 (1990): 97 103. 113 For an illustration of how m any fishmongers served as mayors and sheriffs compared to other London 308 355.


54 Conclusion Considering the effects of the Black Death on environmental concern, there may have been a more dramatic effect on environmental regulation during the fourteenth centur y than on other types of regulation. According to Sabine, not only did the environment of London likely deteriorate immediately after the plague due to general chaos, lack of morale, and disruption of the cleanup system, but the city also rebounded to foc us their efforts on city cleaning with even more dedication than in pre plague years. The assumed connection between disease and the presence of filth and foul smells was the likely motivator. Furthermore, if the population theories of Barron are accepte d, the city was either much, much filthier prior to the plague, or city cleaning was much better without the need for many regulations. According to Barron, the level of building density at the trade sites in the year 1300 compared to the same in the year 1600 indicates that the population levels might also be comparable; the population around 1300 could have possibly reached one hundred thousand, a peak not seen again until 1600. 114 If that was the case, then one interpretation of the records could be that not only did city cleaning increase as a result of the plague, but also that even the much larger waste producing pre plague population did not reflect nearly the amount of environmental concern as did the smaller population. To be fair, this increase in environmental cleanliness likely began to wear off by the fifteenth century as the population grew, began producing more waste, and/or possibly became increasingly lax in its environmental duties (the references to city cleaning in the records begin to di e down again after 1400). Moreover, simply because 114 Barron, London 238 239.


55 more regulations were pronounced in any given period does not mean that they were necessarily effective the opposite may have been true. However, this proclamation from 1444 may have been referring to th e period after the Black Death the period when them to take steps for keeping the bank of the river and the streets and lanes of the City free from dirt and rubbish, as 115 This chapter began with the statement that environmental concerns for smaller English towns have not yet been analyzed in detail; one possible reason being that most small English towns simply might have lacked a signif icant amount of environmental regulations. However, Zupko and Laures, in their environmental study of northern Italy, have at least proven that environmental regulation was not restricted to the largest urban cities. These Italian towns focused on protec ting their water from contamination, keeping their roads passable, and limiting the locations of butchering. 116 A fair comparison cannot be made with small English towns, but the case of London has shown that northern European cities did not need to learn t heir environmental lessons from Italy as the introduction to Straws in the Wind appears to state. 117 Environmental regulations either came from the king or other authorities, who were concerned about maintaining the well and the citizens therein. However, although many regulations clearly came from the king, the 115 CLB: K folio 220 b. 116 Ronald E. Zupko and Robert Al Laures, Straws in the Wind: Medieval Urban Environmental Law The Case of Northern Italy (Boulder: Westview Press, Inc., 1996), 51 Letter Books Most significantly, his calculations illustrate that the 16 references concerning city clean ing for 1300 1350 dramatically grew to 65 for 1350 1400. 117 Ibid., 5.


56 community of London itself, including authority figures, was much more involved in regulating environmental nuisances in their environment. To state simply that the community of medieval London cared about their urban environment is an understatement. The citizens experienced the nuisances that posed a threat to their health, their safety, their convenience, and to the aesthetics of the city on a daily basis. Fu of medieval London, many of the complaints that inspired environmental regulations came from others in the community. Most clearly and directly, they complained about e nvironmental nuisance when either their personal health and safety or their private spaces were at risk. Either the records simply do not include many other types of complaints, or the citizens left public concerns, such as street cleaning, in the hands o f city officials. Whatever the case may have been, the community clearly distinguished between nuisances that affected public and private spaces, and was clearly concerned about anything that became an environmental nuisance in both public and private spa ces.


57 CHAPTER III MANAGING IDENTITY AND REPUTATION WITHIN THE COMMUNITY By analyzing what and who the community perceived as nuisances, it becomes clear that personal identity and reputation represented important factors within the communi ty, both in identifying nuisances and as attributes that were themselves threatened by nuisances. The community of late medieval London, in a variety of ways, defined certain people and certain types of behavior as nuisances, such as nightwalking; despite the community more clearly identifying environmental and neighborhood issues as nuisances (especially within the Assize of Nuisance ), the category of nuisance cannot be restricted to environment and space. The basic definition of nuisance as something th at caused irritation and possible harm, without falling into the categories of crime and violence, can easily be applied to behavior as it was connected to personal reputation. Simply speaking, the community both defined acceptable behavior and perceived men and women who acquired bad reputations who did not conform to the accepted norm as nuisances. how their reputation could have possibly become tarnished. Also, certain types of reputation within the community. These types of nuisances have shown that women with


58 a bad reputation were most commonly at risk of being labeled as sexually devian t, while men who acquired a bad reputation were at risk of being labeled as vagrants. Furthermore, both men and women could threaten the reputation of others through defamation, as well as face serious threats to their own reputation and identity within the community. While some evidence suggests that women may have become associated with deviant speech more so than men, both genders clearly were involved in defamation a uthority figure as a respectable member of the community often determined the guilty party in cases of defamation. Men and Vagrancy Vagrancy appears to have been a nuisance concerning men; more specifically, vagrancy concerned those men who were acc perceived purpose. This included idle wandering at night as well as during the day, and while it may or may not have been associated with an actual crime, it was always associated with a negative reputation. W hen this type of idle wandering occurred at wandering by day became 118 the s ecular records as a nuisance and as an example of how community attitudes toward 118 This section focuses on vagrancy, but not necessarily poverty or the poor. For poverty and the poor specifically, see Michel Mollat, The Poor in the Middle Ages: an Essay in Social Hi story trans. Arthur Goldhammer (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986) and E. M. Leonard, The Early History of English Poor Relief (New York: Barnes & Nobel, Inc., 1965).


59 vagrancy changed during this period; within the secular records, begging did not become associated with vagrancy until after the Black Death. Prior to this point, vagrancy wa s most commonly associated with nightwalking. While many historians attribute changing attitudes toward begging and vagrancy to shifting religious views about begging and poverty, the economic effects both perceived and actual of the Black Death must be v iewed as significant factors that affected the perception of vagrancy in London, especially within the secular realm. Bronislaw Geremek, in his analysis of marginality in fourteenth and early fifteenth century Paris, included a section on beggars. He exa mined stereotypical attitudes that developed toward beggars and begging during the fourteenth century, including literary and dramatic works that presented beggars as crafty and deceptive, often the subject of mockery and humiliation. On the one hand, he cited those who deliberately sought to deceive the public by pretending to be destitute as examples of beggars who fueled the fire of hostility toward the group as a whole; on the other hand, many beggars clearly worked within acceptable moral limits, allo wing people to give alms to someone who was genuinely poor in exchange for the absolution of their sins. Overall, Geremek argued that hostility toward vagrants and beggars increased during the fourteenth century as a result of Parisian cultural changes, e xcluding a direct connection to the Black Death. 119 However, since the secular records for medieval London do not pair begging with vagrancy until after the Black Death, this aspect needs attention. 119 Bronislaw Geremek, The Margins of Society in Late Medieval Paris trans. Jean Bir rell (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1987), 179 210.


60 In his book on medieval crime, Trevor Dean included a shor t discussion on the criminalization of vagrancy. According to a common argument, the Black Death and its consequent impact on the labor market led to the criminalization of vagrancy and the separation of legitimate beggars from those who could actually wo rk. The shortage of labor led to new frustrations over vagrancy and anyone who was seen as living a life of 120 In Standards of Living in the Later Middle Ages: Social Change in England c. 1200 1520 Christopher Dyer acknowledged t hat religious attitudes toward poverty and begging had been changing during the end of the thirteenth century and into the fourteenth, drawing sharper lines between those who deserved charity and those who did not. 121 Yet, the most significant intellectual developments appear to have occurred during and after the plague, and Dyer stated that a rise in discriminatory feelings Black Death. 122 To be clear, this chapter will not attempt to trace the development of religious attitudes toward poverty. Still, it is fair to state that the economic shifts during the late fourteenth century were important factors responsible for changing attitudes both secular and sacred toward begging and vagrancy in London. Prior to the influence of the plague, religious charity may have been more tightly regulated to include only those who were most deserving of donations, but the effects of the plague paired illegitimate beggars with vagrancy and n uisance most directly, especially on the secular level. Focusing on vagrancy and those who could have acquired the reputation of being a 120 Dean, Crime 50. 121 Christopher Dyer, Standards of Living in the Later Middle Ages: Social Change in England c. 1200 1520 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 234 239. 122 Ibid., 239, 253 254.


61 vagrant, the developments in attitudes toward vagrancy in London do indeed reflect changing attitudes toward begging; however, the issue of vagrancy as a nuisance in London did not simply begin with the topic of begging after the mid fourteenth century. Dean examined a few problems with the theory that the criminalization of vagrancy developed only after the plague when h e applied it to Europe as a whole, one being that although vagrancy as a crime intensified after the Black Death in many areas, it also existed prior to the mid fourteenth century. 123 When the records for London are examined, the history of vagrancy as a cr ime or the history of the regulation of vagrancy as a perceived crime does seem to begin prior to the Black Death; still, the records certainly reflect a change in the types of vagrancy penalized. The criminalization of vagrancy did not begin after the Bla ck Death as a result of the Black Death; however, the criminalization of vagrancy as it applied to begging did. When it came to the post plague regulation of vagrancy, it went hand in hand with the regulation of begging. Prior to the mid fourteenth centu ry, vagrancy in London was usually only penalized if it occurred at night, and it was typically connected with another and for being vagrants by night after curfew i at night, and Richard le Wayte of Essex as a nightwa 124 Just as vagrancy was intimately connected to the regulation of begging after the plague, 123 Dean, Crime 50 52. 124 Calendar of Lette r Books of the City of London: B: 1275 1312 ed. R. R. Sharpe (London, 1900), folio 3; PMR Roll A 3.


62 night vagrancy was connected to being a troublemaker of one sort or another. Rather than claiming that the criminalization of vagranc y developed after the plague, it seems more appropriate to say that there was a post plague criminalization of vagrancy by day maintaining himself by art or labour pretend t o be poor and beg his food on pain of s strong and lusty, 125 Although markedly different in character, after mid century, the idle wandering which drew to accusations of vagrancy by night also drew accusations of vagrancy by day. In both cases, the accusations did not necessarily refer to a specific crime. In most of the nightwalking examples from the previous paragraph, the act of wandering around the city at night was directly associated with disturbing the peace or causing trouble of some sort. However, in the example of Andrew le Brewere, the simple act of nightwalking by itself caused suspicion. It seems that once nightwalking became associated wi th nefarious activities, someone who simply walked around the city after dark could have easily acquired a bad reputation. Yet, the regulations for curfew reveal that certain individuals who already had a good reputation could get away with nightwalking w ithout being labeled as an obvious troublemaker. Some of the regulations 125 CLB: G folio ccxcv b; CLB: H folio xcviii xcix; PMR Roll A 25.


63 reputation within the community seemed to determine who could enjoy the privilege of being outdoors after curfew without acquiring a bad reputation for doing so. Unless an i ndividual had already established a positive reputation within the community, by default he would be labeled negatively for breaking curfew. However, while these types of regulations represented the majority of curfew regulations, they did not represent t hem all; one curfew regulation from the early fourteenth century and another from the early 13) contains this type of wording, and, although imprisonment for violating curfew had been threatened in 126 Perhaps the authorities felt that the regulations from the second half of the fourteenth century did not adequately control the situation, either because they plague population continued to grow, different steps nee ded to be taken in order to keep nuisance at bay in a larger population. By this time, a good reputation no longer appeared to suffice as an excuse for nightwalking as it became even more synonymous with bad intentions. Returning to vagrancy as a form of illegitimate begging and idle wandering by 126 CLB: C folio xvb (xxxix b); CL B: G folio cvii b; CLB: H folio cclxiv b; CLB: I folios cxxi cxxx.


64 who deliberately deceived the public have been reported, 127 the sources show that false begging only became a concern in L ondon after the mid fourteenth century during the post plague labor shortage if there was even much of a shortage in London. Despite the loss of population that occurred in England after the Black Death, the population in London likely did not suffer simi lar losses due to the immigration that occurred from rural areas when those survivors sought higher wages and better opportunities. However, plague, and if the popul ation in London indeed remained relatively high due to immigration, then the population turnover native merchants being replaced by rural peasants was still a dramatic change for the city, and likewise could have fueled new concerns over begging and vagran cy. Although a labor shortage could still have created the impression that more people were begging instead of working, it was also possible that more beggars did indeed arrive in London from rural areas and that the newer population of strangers whether they were perceived as beggars or not caused an increase in anxieties toward vagrancy. 128 Whatever the case may have been, it is clear that a new category of vagrant beggars had been developed during this period in London. After the mid fourteenth centur y in London, the identity of vagrancy shifted to include those who were viewed as false beggars. Yet, identifying men as vagrants 127 See Geremek, The Margins of Society 204. 128 See Thrupp, Merchant Class 199 200, Dyer, Standards of Living 239 and 253 254, Ziegler, The Black Death 160, Colin Platt, King Death: T he Black Death and Its Aftermath in Late Medieval England (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997),19 Economic History Review New Series, vol. 2, no. 3 (1950) : 221 246, and Roy Porter, London: A Social History (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994), 28 29. Although the population may not have declined as sharply as the rest of England, it was still significantly reduced from the initial surge of deaths; s ee Barron, London 239 242.


65 seemed to remain the same. Although female beggars existed, men were the typical targets of the post plague labor legislatio n, and thus represented false, vagrant beggars in the records. 129 As already explained above, reputation was intimately associated with nightwalking, especially the negative variety; yet, this too only seemed to be a reputation that could become associated with men. 130 At least the same can be y a Roger de Ware, cook, who was presented as a common nightwalker, confessed his offence and put himself on the mercy o 131 Many times, the have demonstrated, this did not always have to be the case. Perhaps the reason for the lack of female participants was simply that women were generally more interested in remaining inside the safety of their homes, and thus stayed away from suspicious nightly activity. Although, men were the typical offenders in almost every category of regulated activity, so a male predominance in nightwalking merely reflects this statistic. Men may have been the typical offenders of this type of violation, but perhaps, in g eneral, men attracted more attention as suspicious persons, which added to their susceptibility of being labeled as nightwalkers. 129 For example, CLB: G folio ixxviii; CLB: I folios ccxi ccxx. 130 McIntosh, Controlling Misbehavior 65. 131 PMR Roll A18.


66 Whatever the case may have been, nightwalking, along with the larger category of vagrancy, was not associated with women, bu t with men. Most specifically, the regulations that focused on vagrancy and nightwalking either targeted men who already had a bad reputation within the community, or led to their being labeled as individuals who violated what the community defined as acc eptable behavior. As a result of shifting attitudes within the community, the definition of what was perceived as a negative reputation within the community also shifted; although Geremek saw this cultural shift as independent from the effects of the plag ue in Paris, the evidence for London clearly illustrates that a cultural shift that paired begging with vagrancy occurred after the Black Death as a result of its effects on the economy and population. Yet, men alone did not face discrimination if they vi olated certain behavioral norms within the community; women who acquired a bad reputation within the community were also labeled in specific ways. Women and Sexuality Many historians have analyzed the religious and moral issues of prostitution in the M iddle Ages, such as Ruth Mazo Karras, who argued that prostitution strengthened and justification for a net of control that medieval contemporaries cast over all women. The ind ependent woman who did not live under the authority of a father, husband, or other domestic master was dangerous and likely associated with prostitution even if she did not avail her body for that purpose. Karras also analyzed the terminology that was use d to


67 describe women who became associated with sexual deviance; since medieval stated that any woman who made her body publicly available to men, whether she took money o 132 Even though brothels and the actual practice of prostitution did exist, Karras demonstrated that sexual labels were used to describe any woman who had acquired a bad reputation withi n the community who had become a nuisance. This included not only those women who actually violated sexual norms, but also single women and working women. 133 According to Karras, the sexual reputation of women was always in danger of becoming tarnished, a danger that they did not share with men. The regulations that alone; no male counterpart to these regulations existed. In short, although authorities regulated prostitutio n, they did not eliminate the practice due to its status as a necessary ordered to remain outside of the city due to their association with criminals, disruptive 132 Karras, Common Women 1 24, 131 142; however, for clarification purposes, the term 133 Unfortunately, as this section focuses on an examination of English translations of secular records alone, neither a moral analysis nor an analysis of the terminology for London alone was possible in o prostitution, the records for London represented only a small portion of her evidence.) However, her basic arguments are still relevant and can still be app lied to this section with confidence; for more on medieval prostitution in general, see Geremek, The Margins of Society and Leah Lydia Otis, Prostitution in Medieval Society: The History of an Urban Institution in Languedoc (Chicago: The University of Chi cago Press, 1985).


68 activity, and disreputable people, prostitutes were still allowed within the city because officials justified their practice as a necessary nuisance. 134 In Controlling Misbehavior to around 1460, even prostitu tes seem to have been ignored unless they had done 135 In terms of actively punishing women who engaged in prostitution, this seems to have been the case for London, as least as far as the secular authorities were concerned. Despi te the association of prostitution with criminals and bad behavior, there is no example in the records for this period of a woman having been arrested and/or punished for this practice alone. However, prostitution itself was far from ignored; it was regul According to the Liber Albus a proclamation was made during the time of Edward I (1272 136 common brothel keeper shall be residing within the walls of the City, 137 This next example provides the explanations used for why the abovementioned regulation was enacted: And whereas thieves and other persons of light and bad repute are often, and more commonly, received and harboured in the h ouses of women of evil life within the City than elsewhere, through whom evil deeds and murders, by reason of such harbouring, do often happen, and great evils 134 those located on Southwark, a suburb o f London; see Ruth Mazo Karras, thels in Later Medieval England, Signs vol. 14, no. 2 (Winter 1989): 399 433 135 McIntosh, Controlling Misbehavior 70. 136 137 Liber Albus 239.


69 and scandals to the people of the City. The King doth will and command, that from henceforth no common woman shall dwell within the walls of the City. And if any such shall hereafter be found within the City residing and dwelling, he shall be imprisoned forty days. And let the Warden cause search to be made throughout the City in the best manner th at he shall see fit, where such women are received, and who they are; and then, when they shall be found, let their limits be assigned unto 138 Although prostitutes faced certain regulations, the brothel keepers and those who housed prostitutes (or t hose women who had been labeled as such) were the ones who were actively punished though imprisonment for violating the regulations. This case answer a charge of harbour ing Alice Donbely, Alice Tredewedowe and other 139 The case does not describe his eventual punishment, but only that he, not the prostitutes, faced punishment. At the most, it seems, prostitutes could have been imprisone d or punished by having furs and other expensive clothing confiscated if they violated specific dress regulations; however, these regulations did not focus only on women who were associated with prostitution and sexual deviance. The first proclamation of this type included in the Letter Books the town shall henceforth go to market nor into the highway out of her house with a hood 138 Ibid., 247. 139 PMR Roll A 5.


70 rs, nurses, 140 er proclamation linings, &c., by women of bad character in bad character 141 In this example, the and the purpose of hat, by this time, the practice of identifying any woman who had a bad reputation within the community through sexual labeling was more pronounced than in the late thirteenth century since the later examples. It must be acknowledged that while prostitutes were not ignored through regulations, the records fail to show that these regulations were actively enforced. However, both the regulation of dress and especially the regulation of brothe ls call into 140 CLB: A folio 130 b. 141 CLB: H folio cxxxix.


71 small communities does not apply to London as well. Furthermore, McIntos h did not that any woman with a bad reputation was in danger of being regulated like someone who actually practiced prostitution; the issue ere being labeled in a negative, sexual way. Women who had acquired a bad reputation within the community, whether they worked as prostitutes or not, clearly represented a nuisance to Curiou sly, though, it seems that while brothels were pushed out of the city, those who practiced prostitution were still allowed within the city as long as they adhered to the type brothel keepers this did not mean that they always escaped some sort of visual, public punishment in addition to imprisonment; punishment i n the form of visual identification or humiliation was not reserved for prostitutes alone. The Liber Albus shows that, during the time of Richard II (1377 1399), any man or women who the pillory or thew 142 for a specified period of time, depending on the number of times he her 143 142 A special pillory for women. 143 Liber Albus 394 395.


72 Brothels were seen as establishments that could lead to all sorts of trouble, and authorities did not want them corrupting the streets and nei ghborhoods of London and becoming nuisances by harboring criminals or anyone with a bad reputation. 144 Yet, the brothel keepers and not prostitutes faced the harshest punishments; the practice of prostitution, albeit regulated, was still tolerated. As expl ained by Ruth Mazo Karras, officials did not eliminate brothels completely because the act of prostitution was justified as an outlet where men could find fleshly pleasure without corrupting respectable wives and daughters. It provided what was perceived as a necessary outlet for male tensions. 145 Prostitution, in this respect, was tolerated in late medieval London 146 state that women specifically were targ eted by certain regulations in medieval London. Even if many women did not immediately fall under the category of a sexual deviant, reputation within the community was extremely important; it not only protected their identity as honest women, but it also kept them from falling under the umbrella of these regulations, which associated women with sexual deviance even further. After all, even though a man could acquire a negative label, he did not have to dress a certain way in order to identify himself as a vagrant wherever he went. 144 Refer to the example o n pages 68 69. 145 Karras, Common Women 32 33. 146 Ibid., 33.


73 Clearly, any woman with a bad reputation in late medieval London could have been labeled as a sexual deviant. However, as the next section will demonstrate, the medieval Londoners. Insults and false accusations could come in a variety of other forms, and both men and women appeared in the records as victi ms and defamers. Defamation and Reputation Deviant speech as a category, while clearly becoming synonymous with women at a later time or in a different location, was plausibl e for this period in London, but cannot be strongly supported with the existing evidence. More specific speech related offenses, such as insults and threats, were what required controlling and what made deviant speech such a nuisance; even though a greate r number of male perpetrators were recorded in the sources, these offenses involved both sexes. The possible harm that could come from such offenses, rather than connecting them to one gender or the other, was the focus of control. In Venomous Tongues: Speech and Gender in Late Medieval London Sandy Bardsley argued that scolding, gossiping, and other verbal offenses became intimately associated with women. 147 Gender, more than any other factor, determined the pattern for speech related offenses, and this pattern developed over the course of the fourteenth 147 Sandy Bardsley, Venomous Tongues: Speech and Gender in Late Medieval London (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006), 151.


74 words as geese were to excrement. Women were gossips and chatterers, scolds and shrews, and gossipy or scolding men w 148 Instead of being viewed as a scold or a nag, a man who was found guilty of employing disorderly speech was either accused of being effeminate, as explained in the quote above, or the offense was simply explained with a more masculine des 149 Although she never appears to have acknowledged the possibility that women were indeed guilty of a greater amount of disorderly speech beyond the stereotypes, she convincingly a rgued that they were at least viewed as the greater nuisance when it came to speech. Late medieval English society paired deviant speech with women. Yet, as far as the reasoning behind this trend is concerned, Bardsley simply discussed it in terms of gen der tensions. The aim of her book was to discuss developed as a by explanation of the increase in scolding prosecutions following the Black Death as a result of a newfound resentment among male workers who experienced post plague competition from their female counterparts. 150 Bardsley used secular and ecclesiastical sources from the whole of England for her re search; when secular London is set apart from other communities, it becomes more challenging to extract such a decisive argument for deviant speech and gender from the 148 Ibid., 25. 149 Ibid., 6. 150 Ibid., 8, 13; here, Bardsl


75 records. This discrepancy could simply be due to a difference in the source material av ailable for London; as explained in the introductory chapter, there appears to have been a shift in the types of cases recorded in the Plea and Memoranda Rolls during the end of the fourteenth and the beginning of the fifteenth century, which may have excl uded future occurrences of deviant speech. In the Liber Albus or woman shall be attained of being a brawler or scold, let such person be taken unto the 151 Joan his wife, John Irlond and Agnes his wife, and Isabel Hemyng w ere charged with creating a disturbance. A jury found them guilty and added further that the women were 152 include When scolding was mentioned in documents written in Latin, the noun for garulatrix session, one might understand that the term used was gendered female 151 Liber Albus 395 396. 152 PMR Roll A 9.


76 when a women was presented and (almost always) gendered male when a male was presented garulatrix garulator is interesting is that the generic masculine form of the noun was seldom used when scolds were discussed in the abstract or en masse. 153 at most referred to both men and women as a group and not only w omen, so any feminization of Bardsley did not give a specific time frame for the feminization of the Latin words used for deviant speech. By the late fifteenth century the transformation appears complete, but she does not indicate if her research of various English communities showed a transformation to the feminine forms prior to the fifteenth century, let alone prior to 1364, in which case it might have been a later development in London. Furthermore, while it is true that her analysis of the Latin comes from documents other than court records, her findings for the secular courts from 1350 1399 showed that women were prosecuted as scolds ninety four percent of the ti me. Were masculine forms of the Latin terms still used in many of these cases during this time period, despite the obvious discrepancy toward women? It is unfortunate that she did not answer this question in her analysis. With the overwhelming instances of female scolds, it seems unusual that the female forms would not have been adopted for the court records as well. Without this additional evidence for comparison, as well as the Latin forms of these terms from fifteenth century London records, the degr ee of feminization of these words in London cannot be determined. 153 Bardsley, Venomous Tongues 88.


77 While the issue of gender and the use of deviant speech is not particularly clear cut in the records for London, one factor remains: there does not appear to be convincing evidence that m en alone were ever accused of being speech offenders, even though on many instances they were accused of using inappropriate speech. Since there are so few examples of women accused of being speech offenders, the issue of the feminization of scolding in L ondon still remains far from conclusive. Women frequently appear in these records for other offenses, so an overwhelming masculine presence does not seem to be ress, nightwalking, keeping the peace, and the like might have been recorded. pillor 154 deviant speech, typically in the form of threats or insults. These offenses did not merely annoy people. Insults a nd threats needed to be controlled due to their potential harm, being. This aspect of deviant speech, more so than any discernable pattern between gender and speech, was the primary reason for controlling speech in late medieval London. Whether it was insulting another citizen, spreading bad rumors, or threatening city officials, numerous vocal violations from both sexes can be cited from the records for medieval London. Although more men appe ar in the records for these offenses, women 154 CLB: H folio xxi.


78 him in a plea of covenant, by shouting out, as he went through St Laurence Lane, Cheap and Coleman Street, that the jurors were liars. A jury drawn from those streets found him the custody of the Sheriffs for calli ng Simon de Worstede, Alderman, a false thief and a broken 155 Not only does this record illustrate an environmental violation committed by a woman, but also an unacceptable use of speec h. As in the previous record with Stephen Page, her insults became a separate concern apart from the original offense. Insults and threats were the two main types of verbal offences. An insult could have represented a false accusation, which either cou ld have led to a false conviction or or simply built up a rumor that could have become s shameful, indecent or evil words to any stranger or freeman whereby the city of London 156 The attachment of labels such a could follow a person long past a particular crime, even if the accusation was false accusation, and the punishment for the offender focus ed on restoring the reputation 155 PM R Roll A 10 (i). 156 Ibid., Roll A 26.


79 public confession of having 157 of an affray, but said that he ha d struck a certain Henry de Asshindon, tiler, under the jaw 158 In this next example, a preventive hameful words against Robert Croule, tawyer, whence 159 Threats, for obvious reasons, created alarm, and were usually associated with an khirst brought a bill of complaint to the r a year on a charge of violent behavior and for 160 Yet, on many other occasions, there was no obvious crime to tie to a particular threat, and, without any additional evidence, it became even more difficult to dis tinguish between a legitimate threat made by one person and a false accusation made by another. The line between making a threat, spreading a 157 CLB: H folio clv. 158 PMR Roll A 3. 159 Ibid., Roll A 26. 160 Ibid., Roll A 4 and Roll A 26.


80 false rumor, and making a legitimate accusation, could easily have become muddled, and the guilty party might hav e been determined solely from the social positions of those involved. In this relevant example from 1339, a certain Gerard Corp accused Henry Darcy, the previous mayor, of spreading false rumors about him, but was himself found guilty of threatening the f ormer mayor and spreading a false rumor: latter had called him an evildoer and a riffler, and that these words would cost Henry Darcy dearer than any words which had been spoken in the Cit y for twenty years; and he went on to say that he could produce twenty witnesses to prove that he never had been a riffler. On hearing these threats, the [current] Mayor, Aldermen and Commonalty committed Gerard Corp to Newgate. On the Wednesday followin g he appeared before the Mayor etc. and apologized to the above Henry. He was bound over in forty casks of wine for his good behavior towards him and the other officers of the City, and was mainprised by twelve persons to keep the peace. 161 In this case, Gerard may have been the guilty party simply because he had used a blame for Gera appears to have been ignored in favor of respecting an authority figure. Although Henry 161 Ibid., Roll A 3.


81 Darc y was the former mayor at the time of this case, the current city officials still referred to him as an officer of the city. In these examples, the issue of authority was more clearly ords spoken words ab out John Chichestre, Alderman arid late Mayor, to the scandal of the same John and of all citizens, who are bound to honour, as far as possible, their superiors and their 162 Clearly and logically, ins ults and threats, when directed at authority figures, could have gotten the offender into trouble more easily, whether a guilty conviction came more quickly or the punishment was made more severe. However, the records have also clearly shown that disrupti ve speech, whether aimed at authority figures or not, was a punishable offense. Defined more specifically as insults and threats, disruptive speech included both men and women as victims and perpetrators. The offense itself was not an abstract concept so mething that simply generated annoyance and discord within the community. Disruptive (or deviant) speech was almost always more specifically defined and distinguished. An insult was not the same as a threat. The potential or obvious harm that insults an d threats caused was the focus of controlling speech during this period in London. While a deeper gender issue may have been probable, there is not enough significant bias toward women or a significant legal category for women as the sex that 162 Ibid., Roll A 10 (ii), Roll A 16, and Roll A 20.


82 identity as an authority figure mattered much more than gender when it came to determining th e guilty party in defamation cases. Conclusion Within the community of late medieval London, reputation and identity were extremely valuable for both men and women alike. Through regulations that focused on nightwalking, common women, bawds, or scold s, city officials both targeted those who already had a negative reputation within the community as defined by both the citizens and authorities and women who had acquired bad reputation s within the community were commonly distinguished as male vagrants and female whores. Attaching a negative label to someone that was easily spread and not so easily forgotten could permanently sour his or her reputation within the community, perhaps add ing to the punishment of any future crimes. As explained in the last section, insults or lso deterred like, and thus helped the community control nuisance. In other words, defamation itself erbal labeling could also have helped the community as a whole control unwanted nuisances by both deterring


83 behavior that would have attracted negative labels and by helping the community keep track of those they perceived as nuisances.


84 CONCLUSION The effects of the plague had a significant impact on how the perception of nuisance evolved after the mid fourteenth century, such as pairing begging with vagrancy. Yet, efforts at controlling nuisance in medieval London, like socia l regulation as a whole, began well before the influence of the Black Death in the mid fourteenth century. Although the social upheaval caused by the Black Death, including a new fear of disease, likely spawned additional regulations or a tightening of ex isting regulations, argument that social regulation began prior to protestant influences by demonstrating that the history of social regulation can easily be extended furthe r back than her start date of 1370. Furthermore, after examining the secular municipal records for late medieval London for the fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, controlling nuisance most significantly illustrated how the community of London defi ned itself in this period. By defining nuisance by defining what bothered them they defined the concerns of the community. The community of London was made up of a community of merchants and craftsmen, including those who became city officials, and the concerns of this group this social class dictated the regulations that focused on controlling nuisance. Moreover, the concerns of this community reflected its crowded urban setting. In terms


85 of space, the examination of the most popular nuisances has re personal space within the community represented a valuable sanctuary that needed to be hectic, crowded atmosphere of London; as a result, cit izens frequently took advantage of the regulations for wall and window height and complained when their privacy was threatened. Furthermore, the citizens of London guarded their private spaces against the physical threats posed by neighbors who violated building and boundary regulations such as building their chimneys too close to neighboring properties, allowing water to run off Even though, in this regard, neig hbors and neighboring properties were the biggest types of nuisances commonly occurred on the public stage. Many of these nuisances, clean and free from obstructions, seemed to be official matters that concerned the city officials and the king more than the citizens themselves, at least as far as the records reveal. When the citizens complained about public nuisances, they either pose d a threat to their personal well being or their private spaces. An unpleasant and harmful odor, while originating in public space, could have easily the citizens of L ondon valued their private spaces, the environmental nuisances of London also revealed that a clear distinction existed between public and private space. approach to orphan c


86 ensured that the orphans of free citizens received proper care, protection, and guidance, motive for caring for orphans, the status of these orphans as the children of merchant citizens only calls this seemingly pure motive into question. Another motive that must be considered is that the city officials, as members of the community of merchants, desired to kee p these orphans within the community. By protecting their inheritances and keeping them from falling through the cracks, they protected the city from the additional nuisances it might have faced from more vagrants and delinquents. Certain groups, such as vagrants and brothel keepers, had been defined as nuisances by the community. The authorities excluded brothels from the city because they were perceived as a both nuisances and bad influences to the neighborhoods that they occupied, frequently becoming associated with criminal activity. Additionally, with bad reputations frequently became associated with vagrancy, while women who had negative reputations within the commu nity were in danger of being labeled as sexual deviants. Due to the effects of the Black Death, illegitimate begging was added to nightwalking as part of the nuisance of vagrancy. Regulations aimed at controlling both types of nuisance only seemed to hav e been violated by men, or at least men were the only ones cited in the records as having broken these regulations and having received the such as those focusing on reg ulating the dress of women of bad character, such as servants, prostitutes, and any other woman who acquired the reputation of a whore either by living as an independent woman or by deviating from social norms in other ways.


87 Regarding defamation, while s ome evidence suggests that deviant speech may have been more of a female nuisance, the cases that focused on insults and threats clearly involved both sexes. These cases clearly demonstrate that the community valued their personal reputation within the community could have easily become tarnished, and that the community defined and valued identity as it was Although the king controlled nuisance in Lo ndon to a certain extent through proclamations and regulations that focused on the well being of the city and the citizens therein, such as the Assize of Buildings the community of London represented the key to defining and controlling nuisance within the city. In the form of merchants, craftsmen, and city officials, the community experienced the nuisances of London on a daily basis and regularly took action to keep them under control. While the city officials often acted for the good of the entire commu nity, the individual citizens usually acted out of self interest, seeking to protect their health, their safety, their reputations, and their personal spaces from any nuisance that might arise from London life.


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