The ‘England’s Immigrants’ database contains information taken from a number of historical sources from across the period between roughly 1330 and 1550.
The database provides a complete list of all the evidence from the sources we have used, but remember that there are two crucial limitations to this data. The first is that we have only used the two most important types of evidence available for the period; alien subsidy returns and letters of denization, but not other types of evidence such as local records. The second is that the records we have used are themselves often incomplete.
It is, however, a comprehensive database of individual immigrants and foreign nationals appearing in these particularly important and useful historical sources. References to other sources beyond the scope of this database, both primary and secondary, have, where possible, been added to the notes for individual people or documents, and these notes can be searched using the ‘Keyword’ search facility.
The bulk of the data in the ‘England’s Immigrants’ database has been compiled from two principal sources. The largest body of material (just over 55,000 records in total) has been collected from the records of taxes paid by aliens living within England during the second half of the period covered by this database. The majority of these have been taken from the surviving records of a series of taxes levied on first-generation immigrants between 1440 and 1487, known collectively as the ‘alien subsidies’. In addition, for certain counties and towns, the database also contains the names of alien taxpayers who paid the subsidy granted to Henry VIII in 1523, the first of the innovative Tudor subsidies for which detailed records survive.
The other main source of information has been the various records of letters of protection and denization (and other similar and related letters) issued to immigrants and other non-English people throughout the period covered by this database, over 7,700 in total. These have been taken from a variety of sources, both primary and secondary, and record the people to whom the Crown granted specific rights that we would today associate with the notion of citizenship. In a small number of cases, where the actual letters have not been discovered or may not have been enrolled, the database instead contains the record of petitions made to the Crown for such letters to be granted.
In addition, the database also contains information from records of other specific groups of foreign individuals collected and preserved by the Crown across the period. In particular, these include the records of Irish people who bought licences to remain in the country during the late-fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, following successive injunctions ordering them to leave; similar licences bought by other people (predominantly Welsh and Scots) across the period; and the records of oaths of fealty taken mainly by people from the Low Countries in 1436, following the breakdown of the alliance between England and Burgundy.
The database has aimed both to preserve the integrity of the original records, and to make the information as easy to use and interpret as possible. In many fields, the original text of an entry has been recorded, but has also been accompanied by a standardised or edited version, allowing users to make the most of the data available. For instance, both the original and modern spellings of places of origin have been preserved, and both are searchable. Many surnames, particularly those derived from places or occupations, have been standardised, and the generally-accepted forms of surnames for known individuals have been added. Recorded nationalities have been preserved, but the addition of ‘standardised’ forms allows the database to correct errors in the original documents (officials often used vague or incorrect terms to describe nationalities or countries of origin), or to add more precise details based on other evidence. However, such standardisation has not been possible for a large proportion of the records within the database, and users will need to exercise their own judgment in interpreting much of the data presented here.