A War over Water: The 1531 English Statue of Sewers and its Impact upon Local Politics, Economies and Environments

  • Author(s) / Creator(s)
  • SSHRC Awarded IG 2013: When I was writing my SSHRC-supported book, Mills in the Medieval Economy: England 1300-1540 (Oxford University Press, 2004), I noted a curious incidence involving the tearing down of two large watermill complexes on the River Itchen between Southampton and Winchester in 1535-6, apparently carried out by a Commission of Sewers following the Statute of Sewers of 1531. This project plans to examine this episode and to attempt to answer some key questions: What was the scale of the destruction of these mills, weirs, etc. (sporadic or comprehensive)? How was this program of destruction implemented and who specifically carried it out? Who were the specific winners and losers (e.g., were certain people targeted to the benefit of a select few)? Did it effect a permanent change on riverine systems, or were the impacts reversible as landowners were allowed to rebuild mills and weirs? Does the examination of the Statute and its impact help our understanding of the Henrician reforms as a whole?
    The methodology involves examining an array of government and manorial documents available in print and manuscript. Surveying the documents in print will provide excellent training for graduate students, while paleographic training in reading early sixteenth-century documents will also be provided. A great deal of the relevant manuscript material is not available in printed or digital form and will have to be examined (and, where allowed, photographed) at archives in the United Kingdom. Based upon the past research experience and output of the applicant, this project should have a high probability in providing important and broad-ranging results that will inform academics and interested people generally not only about this particular incident but about early sixteenth-century English society, economy and politics as a whole.

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  • Type of Item
    Research Material
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  • License
    Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International