Medieval History Term of the Week: Soke and Sokeman

Soke:

1) Land attached to a central manor for payment of dues and for judicial purposes. Often large units – perhaps of very ancient origin. (Wood, Michael. Domesday: A Search for the Roots of England, 214)

2) In London, the estate within the city of a lord who retained some jurisdiction over his tenants. (Reynolds, Susan. An Introduction to the History of English Medieval Towns, 200)

Sokeman:
1) Another name for a free villager. (MEDIEV-L. Medieval Terms)

2) Freeman of peasant status who was free to leave (and often to sell) his land; often owing services or rent, and obliged to attend his lord’s court. (Wood, Michael. Domesday: A Search for the Roots of England, 214)

From the Chronicle of the Abbey of St. Edmund’s, 1173-1202

Another brother also, Edmund by name, was sitting by, and declared that Samson would be abbot, relating a dream which he had seen on the previous night. For he said that he had seen in dreams Roger the cellarer and Hugh the third prior standing before the altar, and Samson in their midst, head and shoulders taller than they, and wearing a long and flowing cloak, fastened at his shoulders, and he was standing as it were like a champion about to engage in a duel. Then the holy Edmund arose from his shrine ­ as it seemed to the brother in his dream ­ and showed his feet and legs bare, as though sickness was upon him. Then when one rose and would have covered the feet of the saint, the saint said, “Come not near. Lo! he shall cover my feet,” and pointed his finger towards Samson. This is the interpretation of the dream: In that a champion was seen, this signified that he who was to become abbot would be constant in labour, alike when disputing with the archbishop of Canterbury about the pleas of the crown, and when striving with the knights of St. Edmund for the full payment of scutages, or with the burghers about encroachments on the market, or with the sokemen for the suits of hundreds; and that he was as it were a champion anxious to overcome his enemies by fighting, that so far as in him lay he might recover the rights and liberties of his church. Moreover, he covered the feet of the holy martyr, when he completed fully the towers of the church, which had been begun a hundred years before.

*term definitions retrieved from Netserf’s Medieval Glossary

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