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Medieval Sourcebook:
Inquest of Sheriffs 1170

When the anarchy of Stephen's reign was over, sheriffs no longer acted as agents of the crown, instead acting as agents of the local magnate. This corruption was added upon when sheriffs abused their powers granted by the Assize of Clarendon to seize the property of criminals, as well as the reeval power of tax-collecting. Thus, in 1170, Henry II attempted to correct the abuses by issuing the Inquest of Sheriffs.

In the first place the barons shall require security and pledge from allsheriffs who have been sheriffs since the lord king last crossed into Normandy,and from all who have been bailiffs or ministers of these [sheriffs], whateverbailiwick they have held from them; also from all those who since that timehave held hundreds of the barons which they [the barons] have in the county,whether they have held them at firm or in custody;--that they will be beforethe lord king on the day which they [the barons] shall set for them for thepurpose of doing right and redressing to him and his men what they ought toredress. . . .

Afterward they [the barons] shall take oath from all the barons and knights andfree men of the county that they will tell the truth concerning that whichshall be asked of them on behalf of the lord king; and that they will notconceal the truth for love of any one or for hatred or for money or reward orfor fear or promise or for anything else.





translated in Albert Beebe White and Wallce Notestein, eds., Source Problems in English History (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1915).


Other works referred to in preparartion:

  • Elton, Geoffrey, The English (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1992).
  • Maitland, F. W., The Constitutional History of England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1965).
  • Smith, Lacey Baldwin and Jean Reeder Smith, eds., The Past Speaks: Sources and Problems in English History, vol. 1 (Lexington, MA: D. C. Heath and Company, 1993).


Text prepared by Seth Seyfried of the University of Utah.

This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the document is copyright. Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source. No permission is granted for commercial use.

(c)Paul Halsall Feb 1996