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Hundred

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Definition: A hundred was a unit of local government in medieval England. A subdivision of a shire, the hundred was, initially, a collection of 100 hides. The term persisted, even though a hundred rarely consisted of that exact number of hides. The first recorded use of the term was made during the reign of King Edmund in the mid-10th century, though according to an anonymous Ordinance of the Hundred in the late 10th century, it had been established long before.

Each hundred had a court that met once a month, usually in the open air, at a well-publicized time and place. There both criminal matters and private disputes were settled. In its earliest incarnation, all residents of the hundred were expected to attend the hundred court, but over the centuries attendance was restricted to the tenants of specific lands. Regular attendants acted as judges, except when the sheriff filled the role on his twice-yearly visits. Gradually, private lords took control of hundred courts.

Crimes committed within a hundred during the Middle Ages were the responsibility of its residents. If the criminal were not found, they were responsible for making financial reparations.

Also Known As: Wapentake (in areas settled by the Danes) and Ward (in the far north of England).
Examples:
When the hundred court met in October, Tom was tried for stealing John's best pig.
There were five hundreds in the Shire of Ware.

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