The Government of Medieval London
By Ken Whittick
Published Online (2013)
Introduction: The city had always, even from Roman times, a great deal of control over its own governance. This control, had then been confirmed by the Charter of King Edward the Confessor in the early eleventh century, and then by William I, in his Charter of 1067, after having conquered the nation in 1066.
The structure of Local Government, as far as it is known, is set out in medieval documents such as the “Liber de Antiquis Legibus.” dated to the beginning of the 14th century and the “Liber Albus” which is said to date from the 15th century although it contains references as far back as the 12th century. There are also some references to the structure of local government in the Calendar of Letter-Books, preserved among the archives of the Corporation of the City of London, in the Guildhall Library.
The main sources of information for the origins of local government are the Liber de Antiquis Legibus, the Liber Albus, John Stow’s A Survey of London and Various Royal proclamations and Acts of Parliament, together with the Calender of Letter Books kept by the City.
There has been dispute regarding the origins of Medieval Government in London. Some, such as Gomme in his Book, “The Governance of London,” maintain that the Romans left a legacy of corporate government behind when they left Britannia in the fifth century A.D., which survived the Anglo-Saxon Conquest, the Danish conquest into the Plantagenet era. This is of course disputed by other historians.