October 23rd, 2018 3:27 PM
ORIGINS OF MILITIA OBLIGATION
The origins of military obligation in England and can be traced to the ‘common burdens’ of the Anglo-Saxon period, among which was service in the fyrd, or army.
There is evidence that such an obligation existed in the Kingdom of Kent by the end of the 7th century, Mercia in the 8th century and Wessex in the 9th century, and the Burghal Hidage of 911â919 indicates that over 27,000 men could have been raised in the defence of 30 West Saxon boroughs. In the late 10th century, areas began to be divided into ‘hundreds’ as units for the fyrd. The obligation to serve was placed on landholders, and the Domesday Book indicates that individuals were expected to serve for approximately 60 days.
The Norman conquest of England in 1066 brought with it a feudal system which also contained an element of military obligation in the form of the feudal host. This system supplemented rather than replaced the fyrd, which continued to be deployed until at least the beginning of the 12th century. The Assize of Arms of 1181 combined the two systems by dividing the free population into four categories according to wealth and prescribing the weapons each was to maintain. The first category corresponded to the feudal host, the next two corresponded to the old fyrd and the last to a general levy. The Statute of Winchester in 1285 introduced two more non-feudal categories to impose a general military obligation on all able-bodied males, including non-free, between the ages of 15 and 60, and updated the prescribed weaponry in the light of developments in warfare at the time.
Because it was not practical to call out every man, King Edward I introduced a system whereby local gentry were authorised to conduct commissions of array to select those who would actually be called for military service