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Historians have great cause to be grateful to the precocious bureaucrats of medieval England, whose records they have exploited to shed light on so many aspects of the past. They should be equally thankful for the generations of scholars who have produced printed calendars of such records since the foundation of the Record Commission in 1800.
In March 1279 King Edward I commissioned a great inquiry into landholding in England. The surviving returns were arranged by hundred, hence their name ‘the Hundred Rolls’, and give a picture of rural society which, in its level of detail, goes far beyond that found in Domesday Book. If this was intended as a second Domesday, it was a superior version of it.
The central place of petitioning in the work of the English parliament has long been recognised: the 18th-century editors of the rolls of parliament included unenrolled petitions in their text wherever they felt able to assign them to a particular assembly, and to this day Members of the House of Commons may deposit written petitions in a bag provided for this purpose at the back
The Parliament Rolls are the principal record of the meetings of English Parliaments from the 13th to the early 16th centuries. Their importance to scholars of medieval England has long been recognised; between 1776 and 1777 they were edited, under the direction of the Reverend John Strachey, and published as the six-volume edition of Rotuli Parliamentorum.