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personal pledging, Freemen of Norwich


This paper examines the evolution of the personal pledging system used by newly admitted freemen, or citizens, of Norwich between 1365 and 1441. It argues that in the late fourteenth century new freemen chose their own sureties, and a large, diverse body of men acted as their pledges. The personal pledging system changed early in the fifteenth century, however, and from 1420 to 1441 civic office holders, particularly the sheriffs, served as the vast majority of pledges. This alteration to the pledging system coincided with changes to the structure and composition of Norwich’s government, and it paralleled a decrease in opportunities for the majority of Norwich’s freemen to participate in civic government.