The Ames Foundation

The Ames Foundation is pleased to announce the publication of a new volume in its regular series, which is under the literary directorship of Professor Charles Donahue, Jr., of the Harvard Law School:

edited and translated by
Tom Olding,
private scholar of Southampton, England,
with an introduction by
Tom Olding
and Penny Tucker
private scholar of Tavistock, England.

During the later Middle Ages, the importance of Southampton’s courts grew hand in hand with the town’s importance as an outport for London. The records translated in this volume are those of the Town Court. By the 1470s, this Court had effectively divided into two, known as the Common Court, in which burgesses had the right to sue and be sued, and the Piepowder Court, a court originally intended for the use of travelling (piedspoudreux or dusty-footed) merchants. The former sat once a week, whereas the latter acted as an ad hoc tribunal that could sit ‘from day to day and hour to hour’ as necessary, in accordance with the practices of the merchant law.

The earliest complete court books come from the 1470s and 1480s. (Fragments survive from earlier in the century, and the record of one case has survived from the fourteenth century.) The importance of these particular records lies in the picture they paint of the types of legal dispute generated both between the townsfolk of Southampton and between them and ‘strangers’, both English and foreign, who frequented the town as a commercial centre and international port. The book has an extensive Introduction in which the history and extent of Southampton’s jurisdiction is discussed, the evidence of the activity of its courts and of those who worked in them is analysed, and the service thereby provided to litigants is evaluated. The volume will be of value not only to those interested in medieval Southampton but to anyone who interested in the borough and mercantile courts of medieval England.

The volume was published in collaboration with the Southampton Records Series, which is under the general editorship of Professor Andrew Spicer, of Oxford Brookes University. It is volume 45 in that series, and is printed in their format, paper covered, in two parts (which are sold together). Overall the volume contains 496 pages: 65 pages of introduction, 355 pages of translation, and 76 pages of “back matter.” The Ames Foundation, with the kind permission of the mayor and council of Southampton and the city archivist, has published on its website, for private use only, images of most the documents translated in the volume.

The support of the of the Ames Foundation has made it possible to offer the volume for US$50. Members of the Selden Society may obtain it from the Southampton Records Series for £17 plus postage and packing, but payment must be made in sterling. For US$ orders click on Ordering Information.


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