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    Posted 2022-10-19 14:41:42 by Andrew Prescott

    Among the major new sources for the study of the revolt of 1381 included in the 'People of 1381' database are the various files series maintained by the Court of King's Bench. These little known files series languished in sacks for many years, and their recovery and identification has been a huge achievement by staff of The National Archives. The value of the King's Bench files was recently demonstrated when Euan Roger of The National Archives and Sebastian Sobecki of the University of Toronto found two documents in them which shed new light on the relationship between the poet Geoffrey Chaucer and Cecily Chaumpaigne, a member of a well-to-do London merchant's family. A document enrolled in the Chancery has been used to claim that Chaucer was accused of raping Cecily, but the new documents found in the King's Bench files show that Chaucer and Cecily were co-defendants in a case under the Statute of Labourers legislation, suggesting that the Chancery enrolment relates to this case.

    The discovery of these documents was reported in a special number of The Chaucer Review 57: 4 (October 2022) which is available on open access here. The special number of The Chaucer Review includes an article by Euan Roger and Andrew Prescott, 'The Archival Iceberg: New Sources for Literary Life Records' which is the most detailed account so far published of the dramatic history of the King's Bench files and uses the new sources for the Peasants' Revolt included in the 'People of 1381' as an extended illustration of the historical value of the King's Bench files.