The practice of annual election to the major civic offices was a distinguishing feature of urban polities in late medieval England, where political power was not based upon lineage and inheritance. In the absence of the legitimacy provided by birth and landholding, oath-taking was a vital stage in the process of official inauguration. In English cities elections and oaths provided the framework of a distinctive concept of time—a civic calendar year—which started on the day of the mayoral election. Elections produced a set of pressures peculiar to towns, and political disputes frequently coalesced around election days. The purpose of the chapter is to explain this pattern of habitual conflict.
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