[posted by Gavin Robinson, 10:33 am, 20 March 2013]
Last month’s post was about sequestration (Parliament confiscating the estates of its enemies). Later in the First Civil War, Parliament developed a new system called compounding, which allowed sequestered delinquents to get their estates back if they paid a fine and swore an oath that they wouldn’t help the King. This process was managed by the Committee for Compounding. I’ve written a brief guide to the committee and its records which is available under CC-BY just like the other content on this blog.
This month’s documents are from the compounding case of Mary Robinson, a widow from Branston in Lincolnshire (no relation as far as I know – my Robinson ancestors were coal miners in Yorkshire, and didn’t move to Lincolnshire until the early 20th century). As usual, the quoted text is all in Crown Copyright and released under Open Government Licence. Click the thumbnails to see page images on Flickr (non-commercial use only).
[posted by Gavin Robinson, 8:07 am, 12 February 2013]
During the English Civil War, Parliament started confiscating the estates of people whom it classified as enemies. This process was called sequestration, and its victims were labelled delinquents. They didn’t necessarily have any affection for the King, and hadn’t necessarily done anything to help him or his armies, but the criteria for sequestration kept getting broader. The sequestration system had a long and messy development that I tried to sketch out in my book. The first national sequestration ordinance was passed on 27 March 1643, and you can read it free at British History Online. The ordinance authorized the seizure of all of a delinquent’s real and personal estate. Rents and debts, which were to be paid to the state, were probably the main sources of money, but goods were also inventoried and sold. The inventory below is for the goods of Lady Wotton and Sir Philip Musgrave. Musgrave was a commander for the King in north-west England (you can read a biography of him at the Internet Archive), but I’m not sure where this inventory was taken. ‘Kent’ has been written on the manuscript in pencil but there’s no explanation of why. Maybe someone who knows the background can confirm or deny it. By the time I was half way through transcribing this document I’d decided that it wasn’t as exciting as I thought it would be, but here it is anyway. For me, the most interesting part is towards the end, where it lists the animals in the park.
[posted by Gavin Robinson, 8:35 am, 15 January 2013]
In discussions about early-modern cavalry tactics, some people have asked me how many horses were killed in battles. This is the answer. Actually only a partial answer, but it’s the best one I’ve got. Narratives of English Civil War battles are usually very vague about casualties, if they mention them at all. Financial records are usually a better source for numbers. For a few parliamentary cavalry units, I’ve found detailed lists of horses lost in service. In 1644, Parliament set up the Committee for Taking Accounts of the Whole Kingdom to audit the war effort (you can read the ordinance for appointing the committee at British History Online). One of the committee’s jobs was to certify arrears of pay due to soldiers and officers (Ian Gentles estimated that these ran into millions of pounds). If the commanding officer of a unit couldn’t satisfactorily account for money, horses and equipment he had received, the value would be knocked off his arrears. Losses by enemy action during a battle were usually allowed, giving officers a strong incentive to exaggerate battle casualties in their accounts. This is obviously a problem because the figures they give could be too high, but it also pretty much guarantees that they won’t be too low. The committee concluded that Lionel Copley, a captain of horse in the Earl of Essex’s army, had defrauded the state of lots of money and horses, and overstated his losses at First Newbury to cover it up, but some members of his troop testified against him. I haven’t included his accounts here because they’re incredibly complicated as well as unreliable. Below I’ve put extracts from three other officers’ accounts that give details of horse losses. Doing this made me realise how bad the transcripts I made for my PhD were, but it also shows that I’ve got much better at palaeography. The quoted text is all in Crown Copyright and released under Open Government Licence. Click the links in the document references to see page images on Flickr (non-commercial use only).
[posted by Gavin Robinson, 3:23 pm, 14 January 2013]
I promised that I’d get back to blogging in January. I’ve finished the last freelance contract, but I’m just about to start a bigger one so I won’t be blogging as much as I’d planned. Instead of what I said I was going to do, I’ll be posting a transcript of an early-modern document every month, with links to images and some explanation of what it’s about. This means that my blogging will be exclusively early-modern for at least six months. The series starts tomorrow with accounts of horse losses in the English Civil War, which will make a nice transition from last year’s cavalry series and partly answer a question that people are always asking me.
The other big news is that I’ve changed my Creative Commons licence to attribution only. This means that you (yes, YOU) are free to modify and re-use my blog posts for any purpose, including commercial use, as long as you attribute it to me. The new licence DOES NOT apply to any posts deleted before today. Also, I’m not waiving any of my moral rights, so no defamatory false attribution, please. I was already planning to make this change before Aaron Swartz died, partly to save me from the trouble of having to give permission for commercial use when people ask for it, and partly to prove that CC-BY doesn’t automatically help neo-nazis. The downside is that I have to pay myself £1,500 per post in Blog Processing Charges, but I’m hoping I might get some free taxpayers’ money to cover that, because I’m a businessman too and so my profits should be just as important as publishing companies’ profits.
[posted by Gavin Robinson, 1:07 pm, 22 October 2012]
I’ll be taking a break from blogging from now until January as I’m about so start a new freelance contract and ‘work comes first, I’m sure you’ll understand’. I was hoping to write a post summarizing the cavalry tactics series, but it’s still too complicated and uncertain for any definite conclusions. When I come back I’ll be blogging about some different things. I’m planning new projects involving digital history and WW1, so expect to see more about that sort of thing and less about early-modern cavalry. I think my blogging is starting to resemble TV seasons: I’ve posted regularly about cavalry (and also the Wharton letters running at the same time) since August, but now it’s finished and after a break will be replaced by something different.