Major Papers


Bishop, Yorkshire, Estate, Priory, Neville, Wars of the Roses


This paper examines the estate incomes of three large ecclesiastical corporations in medieval England to analyse the impact local autonomy has upon economic recovery following a medieval disaster scenario. It utilizes manorial records, assessments, and tax farms for the bishop of Durham, Durham Priory, and the archbishop of York to pursue this goal. Data is complied and presented, building off the methodology of a series of articles in the twentieth century on the changing distribution of wealth in medieval England to allow additional comparison with the wider kingdom. The character of the four truly autonomous bishops of Durham is analysed and placed into this economic context. Findings demonstrated that traditional crown-directed appointment traditions in Durham ensured a surprising resilience to sudden economic change, stymying damage caused by a disaster scenario. Once these appointment traditions ceased to be followed Durham’s economy experienced sharp negative growth until the return of traditional appointment methods returned skilled leadership to Durham. The experience presented by Durham in comparison to its contemporaries indicates that local autonomy provides a mixed boon. It yielded great benefits in the form of protection from sudden economic disaster but also great banes as once bishops lacked the skill or character to properly manage the diverse powers of the said autonomy, the economy immediately and continually suffered the extremes of disaster it had previously proven resilient to.

Primary Advisor

Dr. G. Lazure

Program Reader

Dr. A. Pole

Degree Name

Master of Arts



Document Type

Major Research Paper

Convocation Year