Towns and town growth were integral com ponents o f the agrarian, com m ercial and industrial developm ent o f England between the C onquest and the Black Death. Some of the roles which towns played in the in land and overseas trades, in processing and m anufac­ ture, and in the provision o f services contributing to specialization and expansion, have already been surveyed; bu t in this and the fol­ lowing chapter we tu rn to an exam ination o f towns and townsfolk in their own right, no t only for their econom ic im portance, bu t for the ecclesiastical, governm ental, educational and cultural functions they perform ed. These generations, as we shall see, no t only saw the growth o f larger towns and the foundation o f m ore towns, some­ th ing which was perhaps inevitable in a period when England’s population, p roduction and trade expanded notably; bu t also, in all likelihood an increase of the urban sector o f English society which was relative as well as absolute.