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Welsh History Review


Vol. 17, nos. 1-4 1994-95

Kinship, land and law in fourteenth-century Wales : the kindrid of Iorwerth ap Cadwgan /

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THE relative importance of ties of kinship in medieval peasant society has been
the subject of considerable recent debate. In particular, questions have been
raised about the significance attached to the extended family. Certain histor-
ians, for example, have emphasized the importance of wide networks of kin in
matters such as land inheritance and law-keeping. Thus for the Anglo-Saxon
period, Lorraine Lancaster's classic article stresses such wide networks, and
studies of late medieval society in Tuscany and France have made similar
suggestions.2 However, an alternative tradition emphasizes the central position
of the nuclear family, regarding ties of locality and lordship as more important
than those of kinship and affines. This emphasis on the centrality of the
nuclear family, originally applied to the early modern period, has recently
been extended into the later Middle Ages.3 Determining the priority or other-
wise to be given to the extended or nuclear family is a fundamental problem
which the historian of any medieval society has to confront. In doing so it is
essential to recognize that the nature and shortcomings of the evidence
The research for this article was carried out as part of a project funded by the Economic and Social Research
Council: 'Welsh Society in the Fourteenth Century: the Dyffryn Clwyd Court Rolls' (E.S.R.C. award number
R000234070). The support of the E.S.R.C. is gratefully acknowledged. The machine-readable calendar
produced by an earlier project (E.S.R.C. award number R000232548) has been deposited in the E.S.R.C. Data
Archive under Study Number 2979 (A) and is available for consultation.
The Dyffryn Clwyd court rolls are in the Public Record Office, Special Collections (SC) 2/215/64-2/226/16.
Those rolls, calendared in full during the course of the E.S.R.C. projects, are 2/217/6-2/218/3 (covering the
period 1340-52) and 2/220/7-2/221/1 (covering the period 1389-99); the Llannerch courts in all the rolls from
2/215/64 to 2/220/10 (the period between 1249 and 1399) and the early-fourteenth-century rolls recording
payments on succession to land have also been calendared. References in this article to these rolls will be to the
database record. Numbers 1-12 refer to the fully calendared courts of the 1340-52 period. Numbers LI, L2,
L3, L4, and L5 refer to the files of Llannerch courts, and 'reliefs' to the file of land successions. The references
to the Rental likewise refer to the calendared version of the 1324 Rental of Dyffryn Clwyd on the database.
These references are followed by the record number in the file.
For an account of the background to the court rolls, the methodology of the project, and other areas of
research carried out, see A. D. M. Barrell, R. R. Davies, O. J. Padel and Llinos Smith, 'The Dyffryn Clwyd
Court Roll Project, 1340-52 and 1389-99: Methodology and Approach', in Z. Razi and R. M. Smith (eds.),
Medieval Village and Small Town Society: Views from Manorial and Other Seigneurial Courts (Oxford, forth-
2 L. Lancaster, 'Kinship in Anglo-Saxon Society', British Journal of Sociology, 9 (1958), 230-50, 359-77; J-
L. Flandrin, Families in Former Times (Cambridge, 1979), pp. 11-49; D. Herlihy, 'Family and Property in
Renaissance Florence', in H. A. Miskimin, D. Herlihy and A. L. Udovitch (eds.), The Medieval City, pp. 3-24.
3 K. Wrightson. 'Kinship in an English Village: Terling, Essex 1550-1700', in R. M. Smith (ed.), Land,
Kinship and Life-cycle (Cambridge, 1984), pp. 313-32; R. A. Houlbrooke, The English Family, 1450-1700
(London, 1984), pp. 39-62; B. A. Hanawalt, The Ties that Bound: Peasant Families in Medieval England
(Oxford. 1986), pp. 79-89; A. Macfarlane, The Origins of English Individualism (Oxford, 1978), pp. 80-101.
This approach has recently been questioned in Z. Razi, 'The Myth of the Immutable English Family', Past and
Present, 140 (1993), pp. 3-44.
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