Second Statute of Labourers, 1351

The years 1349-51 saw the introduction of a series of statutes designed to peg the prices that could be charged for labour and trades at pre-plague levels, and to control the movement of workers, especially agricultural labourers. Local gentry, who were entitled to try local cases, used this and other laws to enforce their authority. Moreover, any fines they levied were set against their own tax contributions.

In 1361, when the first justices of the peace were created, the local gentry also acquired the right to hear and determine cases concerning particular categories of crime. This made them much more powerful within the local community, and increased their ability to intervene in the lives of their poorer neighbours. By measures such as these, the ruling elites were able to limit the enhanced economic power gained by the workforce as a result of the plague years.
Catalogue reference: C 74/1, m. 18 (1351)





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