- The English Nobility in the Late Middle Ages: The Fourteenth-Century Political Community (review)
- Australian and New Zealand Association of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (Inc.)
- Volume 15, Number 2, January 1998
- pp. 200-202
- View Citation
- Additional Information
200 Reviews But Forni does not develop any of these possibiUties of classical rhetoric. To be fair, he scarcely mentions it and never defines it. In 169 pages he makes one cursory reference to Cicero, two to QuintiUan, and none to Aristotle. H e ignores most of the three kinds of oratory, the five stages of composition, and six parts of speech, except for his o w n version of 'inventio', and limits himself to a discussion of selected figures and tropes which is at its most coherent in his chapter on 'The Poetics of Realization', though it seems that several excited pages on the 'metaphorical component in Boccaccio's narrative imagination' could be summarised with the observation that Boccaccio has made a pun. The metaphor of the toolkit is oppressively bland. But even i f Boccaccio was just a mechanic, I would like to know what size socket sets he had at his disposal, so I would expect a more substantial discussion of the possible figures and parts and their use. Instead Forni wanders through the text, plucking out examples seemingly by intuition. This fits with the 'Adventures' in the title, an episodic, noncausal perambulation, and in the end it is also consonant with the unexplained Ulustration of John Soane's M u s e u m on the dustjacket, an elaborate hotchpotch. Max Staples Centre for Rural Social Research Charles Sturt University Given-Wilson, Chris, The English Nobility in the Late Middle Ages: T Fourteenth-Century Political Community, London and N e w York, Routledge, 1987, repr. 1996; paper; pp. xxu, 222; 5 maps, 4 tables; R.R.P. US$18.95, £12.99. The hardback edition of this work was pubUshed in 1987. The preface to this edition updates the bibliography. The long introduction sketches the major themes of this book: a broad yet often detaUed examination of the EngUsh peerage in the late Middle Ages. The ethos of this group is s u m m e d up as predominantly 'chivalric' (p. 2), or as Given-Wilson explains it: 'miUtaristic, elitist, and ostentatious'. The EngUsh nobiUty or gentry is of particular interest because of the Reviews 201 widespread changes imposed by WtfUam the Conqueror. By 1086, of 170 great tenants-in-chief holding half the land of England, all but two were Normans (p. 7). Of equal interest is the fact that great famiUes did not emerge in England at this time as they did in France and Germany. The exact nature of the nobiUty, and its composition, is explored in exhaustive detaU with plentiful references to primary sources avatfable in printed editions for the most part. The book is divided into two parts: Part I, "The ranks of the nobility', contains three chapters. The first is entitled 'Kings and the titled nobiUty', the second, 'The peerage', and the third, 'The gentry'. The titled nobiUty, the earls in particular, at times possessed considerable power and wealth, but at times almost all of them were 'demoted, exiled, or executed' (p. 54), while in other periods, their lives and properties were m u c h more secure. The Parliamentary peerage was a rank or group found only in England, where, in the fourteenth century, the individual summons to Parliament became an inheritable right. From 1200 to 1400, the noble class became more clearly defined and more closely guarded. Part II focuses on 'Servants, lands, and the family'. Here, as elsewhere, precise examples are given concerning the makeup and size of noble households. Nobles seem to have maintained staffs made up of roughly half retainers and half servants, at least in the upper echelons of the group. Councils administered noble estates, from the fourteenth century forward. Councillors occupied places of great importance in England. The chapter on land stresses the important changes of the late-fourteenth century which saw nobles become dependent on rents and paid agricultural labour. As the next chapter explains, the fourteenth century brought rising income to most noble families as they changed to sheep raising rather than farming. In the late Middle Ages, n e w modes of keeping land in the family such as the entail or 'use' were developed. The Conclusion is entitled...