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Estate management and institutional constraints in pre-industrial England : the ecclesiastical estates of Durham, c.1400-1640.

Brown, A. T. (2014) 'Estate management and institutional constraints in pre-industrial England : the ecclesiastical estates of Durham, c.1400-1640.', Economic history review., 67 (3). pp. 699-719.


This article explores how far estate management and institutional constraints help to explain the transformations of rural society in England from the fourteenth to the seventeenth centuries. The monks of Durham Cathedral Priory and the bishops of Durham faced many of the same exogenous pressures in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries but they responded differently to these challenges. By the seventeenth century all of the dean and chapter's lands were consolidated holdings on 21-year leases, whereas a confused mixture of copyhold and leasehold land had developed on the bishops' estate. This had a significant impact upon the challenges and opportunities facing their tenants. Institutional constraints were often crucial factors in the transformation of the English countryside: these two neighbouring ecclesiastical estates faced broadly the same problems and yet the composition of their estates diverged significantly across this period, having a profound effect not only on levels of rent, but also on the tenure of holdings and ultimately their relative size; three of the most important factors in the formation of agrarian capitalism. This article also argues that how rural society adapted to the fifteenth-century recession greatly affected the ability of their sixteenth-century counterparts to respond to inflation.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Brown, A. T. (2014), Estate management and institutional constraints in pre-industrial England: the ecclesiastical estates of Durham, c. 1400–1640. The Economic History Review, 67 (3): 699–719, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance With Wiley Terms and Conditions for self-archiving.
Date accepted:24 July 2013
Date deposited:03 September 2013
Date of first online publication:24 December 2013
Date first made open access:24 December 2015

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