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Anti-corruption in HistoryFrom Antiquity to the Modern Era$
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Ronald Kroeze, André Vitória, and Guy Geltner

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198809975

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198809975.001.0001

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“A Water-Spout Springing from the Rock of Freedom”?

“A Water-Spout Springing from the Rock of Freedom”?

Corruption in Sixteenth- and Early-Seventeenth-Century England

(p.125) 8 “A Water-Spout Springing from the Rock of Freedom”?
Anti-corruption in History

G.W. Bernard

Oxford University Press

Taking as its point of departure the career and legacy of the early Tudor courtier Sir William Compton (c. 1482–1528), this chapter reflects on royal favor, gift-giving and patronage in sixteenth- and early-seventeenth-century England, and on the appropriateness of studying a sociopolitical reality structured around those practices from the perspective of corruption and anticorruption. The chapter argues that in the early Tudor period, when private and public interests were deeply enmeshed, corruption was not a primary concern and anticorruption measures were therefore scarce. Embezzlement and theft were certainly condemned, but informal fees and annuities, which were widespread and widely accepted, cannot be readily interpreted as corruption because they were not intended to secure special favor. Rather, they were a conventional element of sociability, which provided unsalaried or poorly salaried officials with an additional source of income, thereby saving royal government from having to support them directly.

Keywords:   corruption, anticorruption, sixteenth century, seventeenth century, royalty, gift-giving, patronage, William Compton, Henry VIII, Tudor

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