“Now thrive the Armourers”: The Development of the Armourers’ Crafts and the Forging of Fourteenth-century London
By Brad Kirkland
PhD Dissertation, University of York, 2015
Abstract: This thesis ultimately seeks to understand how and why the London armourers came to be so closely associated with the politics and uprisings of London’s controversial mayor, John Northampton (1381-1383). However, because the armourers were not incorporated as a combined guild until 1453, this thesis must first analyse how the armourers developed as an industry, and how their workshop, household, and socioindustrial networks and organisations developed and helped to inform their political identities.
This is the first time that the fourteenth-century London armourers have been rigorously examined as a collective of constituent specialist industries, and this thesis contributes to an understanding of how late medieval small crafts developed outside of guilds.
Through examining armourers’ workshops, households, and socio-industrial networks, this thesis arrives at several important conclusions about the nature of the English industry in the fourteenth century which challenge existing scholarship. It finds evidence to explode scholarly myths that English armour was cheap and poorly made through lack of skill, that women did not participate in the industry, and that regulation of the industry was entirely imposed from outside.
Finally, this study shows that the armourers were the most significant participants in the 1384 Mayoralty Riots because their workshop, household, and socio-industrial networks had all contributed to the development of a shared political identity, because Northampton’s opponent Nicholas Brembre attacked that identity, and because the Crown and City’s draconian policies towards the local armour market had grown increasingly severe prior to the riots. This thesis argues that the armourers’ political identity developed as an extension of their workshop, household, and socioindustrial identities and networks, and that each of these contributed to their overall organisational development outside of a guild structure.
Top Image: BNF Français 24364 Roman de toute chevalerie fol. 61r