‘All good rule of the Citee’: Sanitation and civic government in England, 1400-1600

Journal of Urban History 36.3 (2010), 300-315.
This article examines how providing one basic city service—sanitation—influenced civic governmental structures from 1400 to 1600 in two of England’s largest provincial cities, Norwich and Coventry, and how those changes meshed with concepts of good rule. Although sanitation services were neither the most costly nor the highest profile activity of city councils, they can be a window into the evolution of governmental structures during the early phase of city rule. The period witnessed an increasing reliance on a myriad of officials to provide services, but this transition was not straightforward. City councils grappled with how to allocate responsibility for sanitation duties among civic officials, and the assignment of responsibility shifted often over the period. In general, the trend was to allocate responsibility closer and closer to the physical problem— that is, movement from the mayor as overseer to local inspectors.

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