Mapping offences of a royal official in fourteenth century Lincolnshire

The data in this post derives from my work on my MA thesis in which I explored political corruption in fourteenth century Lincolnshire. In the course of this work I created a database from Bernard McLane’s calendered edition of the 1341 Royal Inquest in Lincolnshire. For my PhD I will be creating a database from a broader range of similar trials throughout the early fourteenth century. I am then using the data to support a prosopographical study of royal officials in the fourteenth century prior to the Black Death in an effort to understand historical corruption and anti-corruption, and their interrelation with climatic instability, inequality, and, warfare. In the future I am working on a guide on how to use the open source Carto to map historical data. For now, I just wanted to display a practical application of Carto and give an insight into my work.

You can view the data behind the map below in a spreadsheet here. To create this spreadsheet, I generated database entries with each charge in the trial represented by a single entry. In some cases, multiple offences were contained in a single charge. In these occurrences I have retained a single ID but for the purposes of mapping offences were divided by location. Thus, in my original database charge 1016 appears once but as this offence contained multiple locations when mapped it features seventy times. To derive a uniform magnitude each offence was valued in shillings. This meant it was necessary to combine the value of goods with the value of cash taken in each instance. To achieve this, goods were valued at the market rate for that year and location. In some instances, the charge explicitly stated the value of goods and on these occasions this value was preferred to an estimation.

The following map displays the charges levelled against Roger Woolsthorpe during an investigation into corrupt officials in the mid-fourteenth century. Roger was a wool receiver and tax collector. Each of these roles came with specific geographic remits which accounts for the spread of offences. The areas in which he operated had some of the highest quality wool in the country and constituted a large proportion of the English wool trade in the mid-fourteenth century. Usually Roger, and his associates, weighed wool in a manner favourable to themselves (probably using false weights), took excess wool, and then received a bribes for the performance of their duties. Many of these crimes, probably, took place in the Lincoln customs house. As such the map depicts the locations in which the victims resided rather than locations in which crimes took place. I chose to depict the map in this manner as my goal when creating the spatial analysis was to depict the burden of corruption upon the county rather than necessarily the location of the offence.


The map can be viewed full size here.

Each point represents a single offence and darkening illustrates offences which overlay. The size of each point denotes the severity of the offence which, as stated, is measured by the total value in shillings. Each colour represents a different office. Only five of the charges are not related to Roger’s role as a wool official and instead depict offences as a tax official (coloured orange). Further information can be found by hovering on each individual offence. In the course of data collection offenders were assigned a numerical value for ease of analysis and this is displayed by the hover text (e.g. Gilbert Leatherhead is 1, Henry Tideswell is 4, and Roger Woolsthorpe is 5). The ID relates to entries found in The 1341 Royal Inquest in Lincolnshire edited by Bernard William McLane from which all the information presented here was extracted. This volume can be found via various second hand sellers or the Lincolnshire Records Society.

In most of the charges displayed Woolsthorpe collaborated with the Sheriff of Lincolnshire Gilbert Leatherhead and powerful local merchant Henry Tideswell. Woolsthorpe and Tideswell were especially close associates and intricately tied to William de la Pole. Pole made his fortune as a wool exporter and rose to become Chief Baron of the Exchequer. Pole and his circle of associates had a huge impact on mid-fourteenth England through their creation of the English Wool Company. This company had a monopoly on the export of wool and financed of the crowns war efforts. From June 1338 to October 1339 Pole lent £111,156 to Edward III and fell from grace following the failure of Edward’s campaigns in the Low Countries. The trial of Woolsthorpe and Tideswell may have been be due to their association with Pole who Edward believed had wronged him.

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