Trade, sociability and governance in an English incorporated borough: ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ worlds in Leicester, c. 1570–1640
This study highlights the simultaneous existence of ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ forces in an incorporated borough and their relevance to civic society and governance in a spatial context. Loosely organized networks of men and women of different ages and status were evidenced in credit arrangements, small-scale dealings and sociability in markets, streets and residential houses. These public and private spaces were also subjected to a civic government which attempted to integrate uncontrolled activities into the society of freemen. It is argued that the actions and decisions taken by informal groups and associations were constitutive of the progress of civic society in early modern England.
1 I am indebted to Paul Slack, Penelope J. Corfield, Rosemary Sweet and the anonymous referees for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this article, and also to Richard Rodger for his encouragement during the preparation for this publication.