Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Medieval Shires, Sherrifs & The Division Of England

Here's an interesting little question ... how exactly was England managed in medieval times?

We have already talked a few times about how castles helped to cement feudalism in England in our medieval castle history page but how was the country actually managed?

The answer ... it was divided into shires, each shire being under the control of a sheriff (which derives from the term shire-reeve). The sheriff was the king's representative and it was his job to safeguard the interests of the English Crown.

A shire was generally divided into administrative divisions called "hundreds" - for an example see here on Wikipedia. The king's justice would be enforced in the shire courts and being a sheriff was a lucrative if unpopular job as there was a great deal of scope for corruption. Eventually thanks to King Henry II the sheriffs were replaced by professional administrators.

In England of course the great medieval shires still carry their names proudly - Yorkshire, Lancashire, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire to name just a few.

Labels: , ,