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Response to Review no. 665

Dr Kleineke offers a detailed and stimulating review of Justice and Grace, for which I am very grateful. His criticisms focus on the archival aspects of the study rather than its broader historical interpretations. This is a useful approach, as the discussion and conclusions of the book to a great extent hinge on the detailed scrutiny of a large and neglected archive: The National Archives (TNA) series SC 8. Dr Kleineke queries my use of this archive in two main respects: first, on my methodology, and in particular my use of the warranty note ‘per peticionem de consilio’ as a mechanism to quantify petitions presented in parliament; and second, in the scope of my archival work, and in particular in the concentrated use made of SC 8. I would like, if I may, to respond briefly to each point in turn.

In the first instance, there are very good grounds for associating the warranty note ‘per peticionem de consilio’ with parliamentary sessions because they cluster in periods when parliament was sitting. In highlighting the exception presented by the Gascon material, Dr Kleineke does not address this key aspect of my work but instead incorrectly presumes that these Gascon petitions may be found among the old series of ‘Parliamentary Petitions’ – an assumption which is not made in the book. In fact, a search of all 17,500 petitions in TNA SC 8 reveals only four Gascon petitions which can be positively dated to the 1340s and in each case the petition is actually arranged outside the numerical sequence which signifies the old ‘Parliamentary Petitions’ series. The Gascon material thus supports rather than undermines my conclusions about the provenance of the old ‘Parliamentary Petitions’ class. (1)

In regards to the scope of the volume, the overriding emphasis placed on TNA SC 8 is a natural consequence of the fact that this is where the overwhelming majority of extant unpublished petitions presented in parliament exist. There will inevitably be places where additional archival material can offer further context to particular case studies, and I am especially grateful to Dr Kleineke for noting the other petitions relating to the Act of Resumption. But to deduce from this that the volume is merely about ‘what a particular record class can tell us about petitioning’ rather misses the point. It is unclear what benefits would have accrued by searching through additional unpublished records to discover further cases brought before parliament, other than to add an indefinable (but probably not substantial) number of petitions to an already extensive corpus of petitionary material. There are certainly no grounds to suppose that parliamentary petitions discovered in other series would be qualitatively any different to those that have been placed into TNA series SC 8. It is worth restating that the aim of the book was to characterise and contextualise the parliamentary petition, not to complete the work of 19th-century antiquarians by collecting together and noting all parliamentary petitions in existence.

Finally, Dr Kleineke rather confusingly acknowledges, on the one hand, that I am aware that petitions can be found in other series besides TNA SC 8, but then suggests that no allowance is made for the fact that petitions were not systematically extracted from the writ bundles of the royal courts. In fact, the whole basis of my consideration of the duplication of petitions in Appendix 1 is that while some petitions remained in parliamentary files large numbers did not, and of these it is not at all clear that duplication took place on a systematic basis. Arguably a more satisfactory TNA series to shed light on the issue of duplication is the writs sent into chancery from the privy seal (Chancery: Warrants for the Great Seal (C 81)). Here one will find only a modest number of petitions scattered among the writs and of these only a small proportion appear to be actual copies of petitions contained in TNA SC 8.

Dr Kleineke and I are in agreement that the ‘artificial’ arrangement of TNA SC 8 makes an analysis of its contents less than straightforward, and in this respect I appreciate his questioning of my use of the source. It is through this type of engagement that a better understanding will be gained of the mechanisms and processes that underlay the late medieval English bureaucracy. I am, however, necessarily impelled to point out that his concluding statement that the book throws up ‘serious methodological and archival problems’ is groundless.

Notes

  1. A detailed investigation of the obsolete indexes and notebooks mentioned by Dr Kleineke and their relationship to TNA SC 8 (and the former series known as ‘Parliamentary Petitions’) is to be shortly published: G. Dodd, ‘Parliamentary Petitions? The Origins and Provenance of the “Ancient Petitions” (SC 8) in the National Archives’, in Medieval Petitions: Grace and Grievance, ed. W. M. Ormrod, G. Dodd and A. Musson (Woodbridge, forthcoming). Back to (1)