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The committeemen of Norfolk and Bedfordshire, 1642-1660 Martin, William Stanley

Abstract

This study of Norfolk and Bedfordshire in the civil war and Interregnum was based on an analysis of the membership of the various committees appointed for the counties between December 1642 and March 1660. The members of the committees were divided into groups for analysis according to the dates of their first and last appointments. The gentry of Norfolk and Bedfordshire, which were both Parliamentarian counties, filled the committees of the 1640s, as they had the commissions of the peace in the 1630s. After the execution of the King in January'' 1649, the membership of the Bedfordshire committees was drastically changed by the loss of almost all the gentry members, while the Norfolk committees remained largely unchanged until I65I-I652. The difference between the counties was traced to the displacement of the secluded MPs- from the committees; the probably voluntary withdrawal of the Bedfordshire gentry; the weaker and more fluid gentry community and the greater penetration of radical political and religious ideas in Bedfordshire. Throughout the 1650s, Bedfordshire was administered by people new to county office, of lower social rank and more radical opinions than their gentry predecessors• Similar new people became important in Norfolk after I65I, but they did not replace the gentry, who retained their role and influence. In late 1659 and early 1660, the gentry in both counties returned to sole control of local government, displacing the new officials of the 1650s. A similar pattern in the type of committeemen was observed in both counties: the committeemen appointed before 1649 and in 1660 were of the same social rank as those holding county office before 1640, but the committeemen appointed for the first time I649-I656 were of markedly lower social origins. It was noted that in Bedfordshire, and to a much lesser extent in Norfolk, these new officials of the 1650s proved a viable alternative administration to the traditional gentry elite.

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