- The architecture of medieval Britain: a social history (review)
- Australian and New Zealand Association of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (Inc.)
- Volume 9, Number 2, December 1991
- p. pp. 173-174
- View Citation
Reviews 173 Chapterfive,'La caduta di Costantinopoli: da Pera genovese a Galata turca' is a re-defined study of 101 pages based on three earlier studies. Chapter six, 'I Gattilusio di Lesbo e d'Enos, signore neti'Egeo' is an expanded version of 'The Genoese in the Levant between the decline of Constantinople and the Ottoman Empire' [in Italian] published in Aspetti della vita economica medievale. Atti del Convegno di studi nel x anniversario della morte di Federigo Melis GTlorence 1985). Chapter seven, 'Maona e mercanti genovesi a Cipro' is a revised version of 'Genoese documentary sources for the medieval history of Cyprus' [in Italian] in the Second international congress of Cypriot studies, Nicosia, 20-25 April 1982 (Genoa, 1986). Thefinalchapter, 'La caduta di Caffa: diaspora in Oriente' is a new study prepared for the TV Symposium international, Nessebre, may 1988. This bare recitation of what is contained in this volume, which is all that space will allow, hardly does justice to it. Pistarino is a master of the extraordinarily voluminous Genoese archives. His expertise is unrivalled. The present volume constitutes a valuable new addition not only to the history of the Genoese abroad in the medieval Meditenanean but also to the broader spectrum of late medieval Meditenanean history. John H. Pryor Department of History University of Sydney Piatt, Colin, The architecture of medieval Britain: a social history, photographs by Anthony Kersting, N e w Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1990; cloth; pp. x, 325; 375 colour and monochrome photographs; R.R.P. US$60.00. Colin Piatt is well known for his publications on the material remains of the Middle Ages. In his latest book he tells how he has 'written at the divide' between history and archaeology and how 'now, in partnership with a great photographer, I put m y case for a genuine union of the two'. The need for interaction between medieval history and archaeology is very great but the case is not made here by Professor Piatt or M r Kersting. The fundamental flaw in the concept of this book is that high art is all that matters. Tony Kersting has produced 375 photographs of large secular buildings and impressive ecclesiastical structures. The minority of the illustrations which do not show castles and churches still belong to the same mindset. The three bams shown are Tisbury, Great Coxwell and Bradford-on-Avon, some of the lordliest farm buildings in creation. The nearest thing to an ordinary cottage is a Wealden hall-house now in the Singleton open-air museum. The flirtation with kitchens stops short at Glastonbury, Durham and Stanton Harcourt. 174 Reviews Although the text emphasizes recent archaeological work and recent reappraisals, the photographs do not respond. There is litde evidence that the collaborators in fact collaborated at all. For example, an interesting excursus by Piatt on Eynsford, an inegularly enclosed, untypical watch-tower of the 1080s, is not matched by any illustration, presumably because it is not very 'architectural' any more. The early section of the book, which assumes that the Middle Ages began in 1066, has a bracing and innovative text putting the Norman castle into a good perspective, stressing its antecedents on the continent, its long period of development in England and Wales and aggressively attributing the distinction of early Norman buildings solely to their size. The photographer does not match any of these contentions, although visual evidence is obviously desirable. The reliance on an architectural rather than an historical eye for the illustrations denies the book a single ground-plan, a single drawing, even a single aerial photograph. M r Kersting seems to be earth-bound. As a result there is a rather conventional selection of illustrations: at least 300 of the photographs are of well-known buildings taken from angles which do not seem specially revelatory. A fair number would do well in standard glossy guidebooks and none seems to stress the social content and context of these vastly expensive structures. Piatt's text, on the other hand, is a good, up-to-date discussion of standard themes in upper-crust medieval England. It is striking how England dominates Britain. In 375 photographs only 20 Scottish buildings are...