During the early modern period the freemen of Gloucester, although numerous, represented an elite. They alone could make or sell most types of goods within the city bounds, become councillors, vote in elections for the borough's parliamentary seats, and hope for a place in one of the city's almshouses in old age. Admission to the freedom was by patrimony, by apprenticeship, by purchase or by gift of the city corporation.
This volume makes accessible the registers of Gloucester freemen for 1641-1838. At the start of the period the freedom retained much of its medieval character; subsequently it lost most of its economic significance whilst gaining a political importance which was curtailed by the legislation of the 1830s and destroyed by later electoral reform.