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Reviews 219 my own sense that A History of Shakespeare on Screen: A Century ofFilm and Television is a publishing 'event' ofgreat significance - thefinalseal of academic approval for a new discipline within Shakespeare studies. R. S. White Department ofEnglish The University of Western Australia Squatriti, Paolo, Water and Society in Early Medieval Italy, AD 400-1000, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1998; cloth; pp. xii, 195; R R P AUS$99.00; ISBN 0521621925. I once thought of focussing an introductory early medieval history course o theme of the environment. With this book I could have taught that course. Its footnotes provide many useful references to studies, often recent, which range from the Italian early medieval environment to that of all of Europe and the whole ofthe Middle Ages and beyond. Water as 'part of nature as well as of society' is identified as one of the major themes of the book, the other two being 'the patrimonialization of aqueous resources that became increasingly prominent after 700' and 'the endurance of Roman cultural patterns after the "fall" of Rome' (pp. 16-64, at the end of the Conclusion). Back at the beginning, a well written and sensible Introduction makes clear what will and will not be considered in the study, which is not concerned with water in trade and transportation orritual.Rather, it considers water supply (aqueducts, wells, cisterns, springs) and domestic demand in the first chapter, which includes an interesting section on how early medieval Italians defined water purity. The lack of enthusiasm for drinking water in the sources (for an exception see below) seems to be not because of any poor quality but rather because of its humble associations (which monks did not embrace to the extent one might have thought). Yet it emerges that early medieval cooking used a lot ofwater, with much more boiling than roasting and plenty of soup. While the evidence for doing the washing-up and laundry considered in Chapter 1 is indeed limited, that for bathing in Chapter 2 is extensive (the reason being that the latter allowed the elite to show off in more ways than one!) and very interesting. Here the big change was from collective to private bathing, with a de-emphasis on the recreational aspects. 'Hence', the author concludes, 'the 220 Reviews epithet "the thousand years without a bath" and the scorn heaped on the filthy Dark Ages by obsessively scrubbed modern people is misplaced' (p. 65). Chapter 3 on water in agriculture considers both drainage and irrigation. Qualifying the former, it is shown that the early medieval 'humanised landscape' included wetlands, akin to the more balanced exploitation of saltus and ager, which mitigated floods. In Chapter 4 onfishing,the major trends are the demand for fresh- rather than salt-water fish (note the important ecclesiastical input to demand: 'The eighth century was the time when fish attained the fateful status of not-meat' [p. 106]) and impact of the privatisation of water. The Roman notion of water as a public resource was certainly a casualty of the early Middle Ages (although I was left unclear about whether water had been part of the imperial fisc), a perennial theme of the book discussed under irrigation in the previous chapter and returned to in the next chapter on milling in regard to water supply. It is good to see more evidence that Marc Bloch placed the spread of watermills too late (and this cannot be relegated to precocious Italian development: cf. Fergus Kelly, Early Irish Farming, pp. 482-85). Finally, the Conclusion includes an examination of how the water cycle was understood in early medieval sources to operate by evaporation (right!) and underground circulation (wrong!). Now, on the whole these chapters are densely packed with evidence, meticulously documented. This relativerichnessof early medieval Italian sources will surprise no one familiar with Bryan Ward-Perkins' From Classical Antiquity to the Middle Ages: Urban Public Building in Northern and Central Italy, AD 300-850. Some pieces of evidence are so striking that even in isolation they pose a challenge to our understanding of the period. The chapter on fishing opens with the Honorantie Civitatis Papie, a document detailing an association of fishers their...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1832-8334
Print ISSN
0313-6221
Pages
pp. 219-221
Launched on MUSE
2013-04-03
Open Access
No
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