The Basset Family: Marriage Connections and Socio-Political Networks in Medieval Staffordshire and Beyond
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The political turmoil of the eleventh to fourteenth centuries in England had far reaching consequences for nearly everyone. Noble families especially had the added pressure of ensuring wise political alliances while maintaining and acquiring land and wealth. Although this pressure would have been felt throughout England, the political and economic success of the county of Staffordshire, home to the Basset family, hinged on its political structure, as well as its geographical placement. Although it was not as subject to Welsh invasions as neighboring Shropshire, such invasions had indirect destabilizing effects on the county. Powerful baronial families of the time sought to gain land and favor through strategic alliances. Marriage frequently played a role in helping connect families, even across borders, and this was the case for people of all social levels. As the leadership of England fluctuated, revolts and rebellions called powerful families to dedicate their allegiances either to the king or to the rebellion. Either way, during the central and late Middle Ages, the West Midlands was an area of unrest. Between geography, weather, invaders from abroad, and internal political debate, the unrest in Staffordshire would create an environment where location, alliances, and family networks could make or break a family’s successes or failures. Frequently women were used as political connectors, marrying into affluent families and creating powerful networking bonds that ensured a family’s success by maintaining control of land and wealth. I argue that based on the tenuous political world of the twelfth to fourteenth centuries, family networking used women as important players in the creation of power blocs. By probing a variety of legal records and using the Basset family in Staffordshire as my model, I aim to recover multiple generations of the Bassets’ family networking, and the ways in which women served as conduits of power to connect influential families.
Table of Contents
Introduction -- The Basset Family -- Conclusion: the impact of the Bassets on the Politics and culture of the West Midlands -- Appendix A -- Appendix B