Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem and other analogous documents (1216-1509)
Inquisitions Post Mortem can be defined as inquiries into the lands held at their deaths by tenants-in-chief of the crown in England. These records have long been recognized as one of the most important sources for the social and economic history of medieval England as they provide information about people’s landed estates for a period when landed wealth was the fundamental basis of social and political power. They identify the heir of the deceased tenant, often naming other relatives in addition, and are thus a vital source for tracing family descents and genealogies. By the mid-14th century they regularly detail the deceased’s date of death, alongside the age of their heir, making them an important source for demographic history. They also describe the ways in which lands were settled among family members, and have been used, among other things, to study the development of ‘enfeoffments to use’ (a legal procedure by which a landowner granted land to another person on the understanding that the grantee would do what the original owner instructed) or trusts. Perhaps most fundamentally, Inquisitions Post Mortem provide information about the social and tenurial structure of almost every parish in medieval England. Finally, Inquisitions Post Mortem shed light on England’s economic and agricultural history. A large number of inquisitions contain detailed surveys of the estates they describe and typically include: acreages and values of different land-types, such as pasture and arable; details of various rents paid by free and villein tenants; and the nature and value of manorial courts and also of fairs and markets.
The Library holds 29 volumes, published between 1904-2010: 1 volume from the reign of Henry III (1216-1272); 13 volumes for the reigns of Edwards I, II and III (1272-1377); 3 volumes for Richard II (1377-1399); 9 volumes covering the reigns of Henry IV to Henry VI (1399-1461); and 3 volumes from the reign of Henry VII (1485-1509).