- Normandy and its Neighbours, 900-1250: Essays for David Bates ed. by David Crouch and Kathleen Thompson
While chairing a session on Norman history at the 2011 Leeds International Medieval Congress, Professor David Bates noted in a tone of self-deprecating bemusement that he 'seem[ed] to have entered the canon now'. He was referring to his enormously influential Normandy before 1066, which first appeared in 1982 and opened up new avenues into the pre-Conquest period, especially for Anglophone scholars, by focusing on the emergence of the Norman duchy in the tenth and early eleventh centuries. Since the appearance of that landmark work, Bates's contribution to Anglo-Norman history has continued to be substantial and is duly celebrated in this excellent festschrift. His influence is attested not only by the high quality of the essays [End Page 224] collected here but also by the profile of the contributors, most of whom are themselves very well-known scholars of distinguished reputation. Bates is generally considered the leading currently active authority on William the Conqueror, as demonstrated by several biographies and by his monumental collection of the Conqueror's charters (Regesta regum Anglo-Normannorum: The Acta of William I, 1066-1087, Oxford University Press, 1998). He is also celebrated for his collegiality and his efforts in encouraging collaboration, especially between academics and students across national boundaries. In this regard his work with French (particularly Norman) scholars might be expected, but he has also fostered continuing links with Anglo-Normanists as far afield as Japan.
What is apparent from these diverse offerings, throughout the collection but perhaps most notably in Part III ('Social and Legal History') is just how lively and current much of the work in the field of Anglo-Norman studies remains. A range of factors continues to be open to debate and even well accepted assumptions are challenged at every turn. This applies, for example, to the field of family and gender studies, where Elisabeth van Houts revisits the commonly held view that the Conquest led to substantial intermarriage between the Norman and Anglo-Saxon populations. On the basis of an admittedly limited and conservative 'first ever catalogue' (p. 238) of such unions, van Houts concludes that marriage remained surprisingly endogamous in England before 1100; in other words, Saxons tended to marry Saxons while Normans (or, more correctly, newly arrived inhabitants from various parts of France) tended to marry Normans.
Familiar shibboleths are equally endangered in John Hudson's article on a small but important point of legal history. The application of differing sets of laws on a personal or 'racial' basis has been widely accepted. After the rebellion of 1075 against William, Norman ringleaders received lesser punishments while Earl Waltheof, less involved but Saxon, was executed. Hudson questions the usual interpretation of these events, based on the testimony of the important but somewhat later (c. 1125) chronicler Orderic Vitalis, and points to neglected evidence which suggests a much less tidy conclusion about differing legal systems.
While these articles belong to the final section of the book, the previous two sections offer equally interesting insights into 'Normandy and the Norman Dynasty' (Part I) and 'The Writing of History' (Part II). Several authors (Judith Green, Kathleen Thompson) assess what there is to know about female members of the early Norman ruling family. John Gillingham extends the focus into the Angevin period, suggesting that the exceptionally large number of meetings between the Capetian and Angevin monarchs [End Page 225] between 1154 and 1204 was largely a function of the personalities involved. Matthew Strickland offers an assessment of the important but relatively overlooked battle of Brémule, in which the Conqueror's son Henry I defeated his French counterpart Louis VI in the Franco-Norman border zone in 1119. Part II presents three essays on source material by three eminent scholars: Pauline Stafford on the 'D...