The Exchequer and King John
: bureaucracy and the exercise of power, 1177-1216

  • Daniel W B Booker

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


This thesis examines the royal exchequer during the reign of King John (1199-1216) and the ways in which the institution’s laws and routines shaped the exercise of power in the early thirteenth century. The exchequer, it shows, was a potent tool of political and financial discipline. Its laws and routines could be used by King John to coerce and intimidate his subjects into greater states of dependency or directed against those targeted for humiliation or destruction. Yet the exchequer also constrained the exercise of power in ways that carried profound consequences for royal government in England and Ireland during the thirteenth century. The exchequer, this thesis shows, had undergone a process of institutionalisation in the decades preceding John’s coronation, developing a distinct identity and ideology which governed how its members should conceive of and conduct their duties. Institutionalisation and inertia, it will be argued, impacted upon King John’s ability to reform and reorganise the exchequer and the financial system it oversaw. As his situation deteriorated, King John’s behaviour was channelled into modes of behaviour which were both effective and in alignment with the exchequer’s laws and routines; yet this same behaviour also contributed significantly towards uniting his subjects in common grievance, thus engendering social, political, and financial crises which ultimately dictated the tenor and development of royal government for the remainder of the thirteenth century. This thesis, therefore, raises fundamental questions over the nature of power and the contours of royal agency: it demands that we consider how rulers’ behaviour was shaped by the institutions and officials which underpinned their rule.
Date of Award28 Sep 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorBenjamin Pohl (Supervisor) & Brendan G C Smith (Supervisor)

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