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The Bishopric of Durham in the Late Middle Ages


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North-East England contained some distinctive power structures during the late middle ages, notably the palatinate of Durham, where writs were issued in the name of the bishop of Durham rather than of the king and the bishop exercised secular authority as earl palatine. The core of the palatinate was the bishopric of Durham, an area bounded by the rivers Tyne and Tees and distinguished by an illustrious tradition, focusing upon Durham cathedral and the cult of St Cuthbert. Here resided the Haliwerfolc, the 'people of the saint'.

This book, unlike previous interpretations which have tended to approach Durham primarily as a form of devolved royal power whose autonomy was gradually circumscribed by the crown, reviews the operation of palatine government in the light of more recent paradigms about the nature of power and identity in medieval England. In particular, it sees the concept of the county community as critical to a new understanding of the social and political history of the bishopric. In Durham this was a community built not upon patterns of landholding, social interaction or office-holding; it was in the concept of the Haliwerfolc and in the cult of St Cuthbert that the inhabitants of the bishopric possessed their own distinctive culture of community and identity.

CHRISTIAN D. LIDDY is Lecturer in History at the University of Durham.


An extremely learned and thoughtful study. [.] Liddy has made an absolutely major contribution to our understanding of the longest lived and most curious political and constitutional structure ever to have evolved in the medieval North. NORTHERN HISTORY
A valuable study [and] a triumph of archival research and the imaginative use of alternative sources. [...] A fine and mature work of scholarship. THE RICARDIAN
A fine book, which has significance for the history of later medieval England beyond the banks of the Tyne and the Tees. NOTTINGHAM MEDIEVAL STUDIES LIII

All historians of the period should be grateful for Christian Liddy's book. JOURNAL OF ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY


First Published: 28 May 2008
13 Digit ISBN: 9781843833772
2 black and white, 8 line drawing illustrations
Pages: 292
Size: 23.4 x 15.6
Binding: Hardback
Imprint: Boydell Press
BIC Class: HBLC1

Details updated on 05 Oct 2015


  • 1  Introduction
  • 2  Land and Power
  • 3  Lordship and Society
  • 4  Office-Holding
  • 5  The Haliwerfolc and the Politics of Community
  • 6  Epilogue