Changes in the AdministrationCategory: 09th century
By the beginning of the 9th century changes had come about in Anglo-Saxon society. There were now big landed estates with bond peasants working on them for the owners. With the development of feudal relations great changes were taking place in administration too. Rich landowners were given great power over the peasants.
At first after the conquest of Britain, folk-moots at which the members of the free communities gathered were held periodically. The hundred-moots presided over by an elected elder were held once a month. At the hundred-moots the men who were elected were sent as representatives to a shire- moot. (A shire was a larger district than a hundred.) The shire-moots were presided over by shire-reeves, or sheriffs, and were held two or three times a year.
In the 9th century the free members of the community were not sent to the hundred-moot any longer; it was the greatest and the most influencial landlords of the hundred who attended the hundred-moot and administered justice there.
The hundred-elder was now one of the royal officials, a representative of the central power in a hundred, and the sheriff became the king’s chief official in the shire. The sheriff was responsible for justice and he presided over the shire-moots on behalf of the king. The king himself became the supreme judge.
Soon afterwards the moots lost their importance and now it was the great council of the most powerful men in the country, known as the Witenagemot (council of the wise men), that gave advice to the king on all important matters. The Anglo-Saxon kings declared war and made peace, they passed laws and imposed taxes. But they always consulted “the wise men”, that is, the greatest landlords of the country.
Thus, with the development of feudal relations, with the growth of big landed possessions all the important problems in the country were decided by the big landowners. The status of a man in society depended on how much land he possessed. It also depended on the man’s rank and his relation to the king. The king’s warriors and officials held more land and they ruled the country.