I T is necessary, in order to arrive at a fairly accurate con-ception of the economical condition and the social life of our forefathers in the thirteenth century, to attempt the description of rural and of town life up to this century. The country parish had constantly remained, with some modifications, the Teutonic settlement of the sixth century. The town, however, had acquired municipal rights, and the management, under certain conditions, of its own affairs, and was striving to attain that comparative independence and freedom from external authority which the municipalities of Roman origin had, it seems, continuously enjoyed or exercised. It is impossible to doubt that English merchants and travellers journeying to Flanders, to the towns of southern France and of Italy, or those of Rhenish Germany, should have noted what they saw in those foreign regions, and have striven to develop the institutions which had given
freedom and opulence to those cities. It is likely, too, that some of the English towns, which had a distinct history during the Roman occupation, and contrived to maintain their existence continuously during the days of the Saxon conquest and the Saxon monarchies, also retained during this obscure period some of those institutions which the system of imperial Rome had long made universal. London and York, Lincoln and Winchester, Exeter and Bath, have been inhabited cities from the days of Suetonius and Agricola. They remained, as the great military roads of the Roman occupation remained, in existence, if not in their ancient efficiency and form.