chapter  3
20 Pages

Justices and Injustice? England’s Local Officials in the Later Middle Ages

ByRichard Gorski

This chapter offers a view of the subject largely through the eyes of the shrievalty and those who served as sheriff during the period. Sheriffs illustrate the good and the bad of shire government as it stood in the teeth of the war state. Recent historiography has done a valuable service in charting the expansion of law in the midst of the Edwardian war state; but to scratch the surface still reveals a society attached to the robust pursuit and defence of its interests. Corruption was the corollary of large-scale delegation. John de Berkeley's miserable experience leads us to consider briefly the relationship between authority and lordship, since the marriage between the two is widely regarded as the most harmful result of large-scale delegation. The periodic visitations of royal justices served as a deterrent to corruption as well as a reactive tool for inquiry and punishment.