Esther Liberman Cuenca, PhD candidate in History, recently published an article in Urban History (Cambridge University Press) titled “Town clerks and the authorship of custumals in medieval England”. Below is her abstract and a link to the article.
This article examines the expertise and duties of clerks in medieval English towns, particularly their roles in creating custumals, or collections of written customs. Customs could regulate trade, of ce-holding, prostitution and even public nuisance. Many clerks were anonymous, and their contributions to custumals understudied. The careers of relatively well-known clerks, however, do provide insights into how some clerks shaped custumals into civic repositories of customary law. By analysing their oaths and known administrative practices, which involved adapting material from older custumals, this article argues that town clerks played critical roles in transmitting customary law to future generations of administrators.
Town clerks and the authorship of custumals in medieval England
Esther Lieberman Cuenca, recipient of the Schallek Fellowship
Fordham History Department’s own Esther Liberman Cuenca was recently awarded the Schallek Fellowship, a one-year grant of $30,000 to support Ph.D. dissertation research in any relevant discipline (art history, literature, history, etc.) dealing with late medieval Britain (ca. 1350-1500). Not only is this a prestigious honor but it will allow Esther to conduct research critical to the completion of her dissertation.
Esther’s research focuses on the development and evolution of borough customary law in medieval Britain. Borough customs were practices or traditions that over time acquired the force of law within the town. Her analytical goals are twofold: to contribute to a deeper understanding of the place of urban customary law within the British legal system, and to reveal custom’s role in the emergence of a distinct bourgeois identity in medieval Britain. Borough customary law has received little scholarly attention because of its scattered distribution in many local and county archives; the need for multi-lingual expertise in Latin, Anglo-Norman French, and Middle English; and the difficulty of dating customary clauses and ordinances from multiple iterative copies.
SROI C/4/1/1, f. 9a: The table of contents for the French Ipswich custumal, contained in the codex they call the ‘Black Domesday.’
Since she reached ABD status at Fordham in 2012, Esther has been teaching multiple courses at Marymount California University and this fellowship will give her the opportunity to focus fully on completing her dissertation. She plans to spend the 2016-2017 year living in England where she can complete her research at the Bristol Record Office and London Metropolitan Archives. In 2013, Esther was also the recipient of the Schallek Award, which is a small grant of $2,000 to help students cover research expenses. “The Medieval Academy/Richard III Society have been very kind to me! And I’m very grateful that they’re supporting my research,” says Esther. The History Department is grateful as well, and very excited for Esther to seize this opportunity!