The petitions held by the Parliamentary Archives from debtors imprisoned in Norfolk county gaol formed the starting point for an investigation into what life was like for insolvent debtors in the prisons of Norwich during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries
The striking feature of this case study was the manner in which the petitions held by the Parliamentary Archives led the history detectives on a trail which led them to learn both about how the subject of debt was handled in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and about prisons in a provincial city at that time. Parliament’s role was clearly discernible as a means by which individuals and local bodies could try and solve their problems and as a regulating and reforming force.
The mentors who had worked with the first group of Norwich history detectives on the land tax project were particularly fascinated by the fact that some of the commissioners they investigated featured in this case study – notably John Harrison Yallop and Elisha De Hague - which said much about the way cities like Norwich operated and were governed in that period and how they related to Parliament.
Of great interest was the discovery of copies of petitions and letters sent to Parliament, the originals of which were destroyed in the 1834 fire at Westminster.
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