1485: Control of Business in the Early Tudor Period
Malcolm S. Mason
affiliation not provided to SSRN
May 18, 2011
The growing movement toward the enclosure of plow land for sheep grazing was causing a great displacement of the farm population. The armies gathered together for the War of the Roses were disbanded. The country was overrun with roaming bands who took their gain where they found it, robbed, kidnapped for ransom, murdered for hire, pillaged and extorted money, food and supplies, and set a price upon freedom from their deprivations; or appropriated as their own some route of commerce, some market place, some forest or valley and levied tribute on the dwellers or passersby; or rented out to others their robbing and kidnapping services.
Some of these bands survived. Those that survived acquired dignity and false traditions of respectable origins. They formed a framework upon which a new constitution was able to crystallize.
This type of power universally conceded to be unlawful, and manifestly not in any usable sense constitutional, is the only type of power to be discovered in the anarchic England of 1485. Only when the hangman has executed his office can we say where guilt stands and where authority lies and then only in the sense that the hanged are always guilty.
The raw material of the constitution which slowly emerged after the Tudor anarchy was the gang of free-booting vagabonds sworn to maintain mutual support in good and ill. The gang so sworn is a maintenance group.
Henry Tudor in 1485 had been twice attainted of treason with the fullest formality. He was king only for the reason that treason never prospers. Against all odds, Henry prospered, against rivals whose claims were, on any theory advanced by him, better than his, rivals crowned and anointed, rivals recognized in half of Europe, followed in England by armies which only most unpredictable chance rendered inferior to his. If Richard III was a legitimate king, Henry Tudor was a traitor and usurper. If Edward IV was a legitimate king, Henry Tudor was a usurper. Contrary to the usual course, his title rests not upon the title of his predecessors but upon the title of his descendants.
Henry met his enemies in detail, made no attempt at maintaining order, and succeeded in accomplishing something more valuable to him, a kind of regularized disorder.
Something similar occurred among lesser folk. Anarchy ate intimately into every aspect of English life.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 23
Keywords: Tudor Business
JEL Classification: B00, B1, K00, N00working papers series
Date posted: June 28, 2011
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