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The Coroners' Rolls and their Significance

The cases displayed on this map are derived from the so-called “Coroners' Rolls”. The coroner was a medieval official who was tasked to record all cases of sudden and unnatural deaths including suicides, accidents and homicides.

After they had been notified of a violent death, the coroner and the sheriffs summoned an investigative jury from the ward where the victim had died and from neighbouring wards. The size of the jury could vary from 12 to about 50 individuals.

The texts report the findings of the investigative jury. Although the details vary, the brief summary would usually specify where and when the homicide happened, who was involved, what triggered the event, what weapons were used and what the nature and dimensions of the wound were. They also recorded the responses that the members of the jury gave to specific questions about the presence of witnesses, what had happened to the perpetrator and what possessions had been found.

Nine Coroners' Rolls relating to the City of London in the first half of the 14th century have survived. Each covers a judicial year starting in September. Eight rolls were published by R. Sharpe in 1913: 1300-1, 1321-2, 1323-4, 1324-5, 1325-6, 1336-7,  1338-9, and 1339-40. A transcript of an additional roll relating to the year 1315-6 is kept in the London Metropolitan Archives. 

 

References

Hanawalt, B. A. (1976). Violent death in fourteenth-and early fifteenth-century England. Comparative Studies in Society and History, 18(3), 297-320.

Hunnisett, R. F. (1961). The Medieval Coroner. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sharpe, R. R. (Ed.). (1913). Calendar of Coroners Rolls of the City of London, AD 1300-1378. R. Clay and sons, limited.

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