- Britons, Saxons, and Scandinavians: The Historical Geography of Glanville R. J. Jones by P. S. Barnwell and Brian K. Roberts, eds
This volume presents the work of the late Professor Glanville R. J. Jones as holding a continuing relevance across a wide range of disciples, from historical geographers and landscape historians, through to historians and archaeologists. In particular, the book aims to allow younger scholars who may not be familiar with Jones’s work, to gain access to and assess Jones’s research, and to encourage modern discussion of his ideas.
The book has two distinct sections, which was a logical choice by the editors. As suggested by the heading, Part I, ‘G. R. J. Jones and his Work’, concentrates on Jones as a scholar and proud native of Wales, along with the evolution of his ideas on the early medieval historical geography of Britain as a whole. Editors P. S. Barnwell and Brian K. Roberts have thus chosen the title Britons, Saxons, and Scandinavians, which simultaneously pays homage to one of Jones’s own well-known chapters published in 1978, ‘Celts, Saxons, and Scandinavians’, and describes the basis of Jones’s work.
Part I starts with a chapter dedicated to an appreciation of Jones as a scholar, explaining the development of his research as a reaction to existing thoughts and ideas. It explains that early in his career, while respecting the existing ideas of previous historians, Jones was dissatisfied with the overall knowledge of early medieval Wales. This led him to reject the emphasis on the pastoral and tribal natures of Welsh society, arguing that Welsh society had a greater unfree population than previously thought. He also put forward the argument that geographical factors were just as important as political factors in settlement history, suggesting that historians should also consider location, aspect, and soil conditions.
Jones’s academic work shows a continuing progression in his theories, which he later applied to other parts of Britain as well. This book assesses each of the main phases of his work, and pays particular attention to his multiple-estate model, for which he is best known. The book sets out the main critiques of this model, its assessments, and conclusions on Jones’s work [End Page 221] as a whole. The discussion presented is balanced, and the editors succeed in placing Jones’s work within a historiographical context.
Part II, ‘Selected Papers by G. J. R. Jones’, as the heading again describes, presents some of Jones’s published papers. Several of these are quite rare and difficult to obtain – such as those only previously available in conference proceedings – so readers interested in his work will find Part II a valuable resource. Others are quite easily obtainable and so it was not essential that they were included in this volume. Despite this, the articles included by Barnwell and Roberts are well chosen for the overview of the development of Jones’s work they provide the reader.
The book does not contain anything particularly new, but then it does not need to, as this is far from its purpose and aims. The idea of bringing together the work of a single scholar along with a discussion of his work is a great one. Jones himself never brought his arguments together into a single volume, but the editors have been successful in doing so. While the editors suggest that the volume is targeted towards younger scholars with little experience of Jones’s work, I would argue that any early medieval historian interested in the geographical history of Wales and England, or in Jones’s work in general, will find it an excellent read.
University of New England