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The Dublin City Franchise Roll 1468-1512
Colm Lennon & James Murray, Editors


 Irish Archives
'In the medieval period, the city of Dublin kept a record of the men and women admitted as citizens of the city. Most of these records have been lost over the intervening centuries, but one of the chance survivals is the franchise roll covering the period from 1467 to 1512. The roll itself was printed by J.T. Gilbert in the first volume of the Calendar of ancient records of Dublin but then appears to have been mislaid until it surfaced again during the reorganisation of the city archives in the 1980s.

The franchise roll provides a list of the people granted citizenship of the city in a continuous list running from 1463 to 1512. Apart from the list of entrants, their profession and the reason for their inclusion on the roll, the franchise roll provides a wealth of incidental information that is of profound interest to the historian of Dublin and, to a lesser extent, the historian of the lordship of Ireland at the turn of the sixteenth century.

The recipients of the honour were listed quarterly under the names of the mayor and bailiffs of the city. The freemen of the city were granted exclusive trading rights and electoral privileges, although these were balanced by the duties of taxation and local legislation. As can be expected for a city like Dublin, merchants formed the largest group of entrants, accounting for thirty seven percent of those enrolled, but Dublin’s links to its hinterland ware also highlighted by the fact that the second largest group of entrants were people engaged in more traditionally rural occupations. Another point that emerges from the roll is that there was no bar for women being enrolled as a citizen of the city as almost one in five of the entries were women, although women did not have the same electoral freedoms enjoyed by their male counterparts. In more general terms. the survival of the roll gives insights into the relationship between Dublin and other trading cities, such as London and Bristol, subject to the king of England. Furthermore, the roll allows the historian of the period the opportunity to make comparisons between Dublin and similar regional centres in England. Given the continuos nature of the roll, the historian is able to trace the career of some of the people mentioned and even the continuation of certain families within the city. Finally, some interesting sidelights on the history of Ireland in general appear in the roll, including conformation that the short lived restoration of Henry VI to the throne in England in the winter of 1470/1 was largely ignored in Ireland and that the city of Dublin was not above honouring the great men of the day, including the great earl of Kildare and John Walton, archbishop of Dublin, by bestowing upon them the rights and privileges that came with the freedom of the city.

As the second in the series of supplements to the original Calendar of ancient records of Dublin, the franchise roll is extremely well edited. Where Gilbert only printed the admissions for the period from 1468 to 1485, Lennon and Murray have carefully reproduced not only the entire record of the admissions inscribed on the front of the rolls, but also the wealth of miscellaneous wills, deeds, grants, and certificates found on the dorse of the original roll. The book begins with a useful introduction written by Lennon, in which he outlines some of the basic facts that can be gleaned from the roll, as well as some of the potential areas of research that could be facilitated by a study of the roll. As could be expected, the bulk of the book is taken up by the edited and translated version of the franchise roll and the various documents preserved on the dorse of the roll. In addition, there are several appendices provided: a breakdown of the admissions by trade, a list of the occupations and reasons for the admission of women to the freedom of the city, lists of the mayors, bailiffs and jurats of the city and a physical analysis of the parchment roll used to record the admission of franchisees to the city. This edition is an excellent continuation of the series and I look forward to the other similarly high quality editions in the future’ David Beresford, Irish Archives, 1999.

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