It would be impossible to do justice to what Michael Livingston and John K. Bollard have achieved with their Owain Glyndŵr: A Casebookin a review of any length. This book is an unprecedented and invaluable record — as comprehensive as could be contained within a single volume — of the rebellion of the Welsh leader Owain Glyndŵr (?1357–9 to 1415) against Henry IV from 1400–1415 and its historical, literary, and popular legacy. This collection will be indispensable to those in a broad range of fields, from the expected (Celtic studies, fifteenth-century history and politics, Shakespearean studies, Anglo-Welsh relations) to the surprising (folklore, military history, the history of the English language). We are indebted to the editors and contributors of this volume for its comprehensiveness and accessibility, and this Casebookwill undoubtedly remain the definitive collection of documents pertaining to Owain Glyndŵr for generations to come.
The Casebookcontains 101 primary documents related to the life and rebellion of Owain Glyndŵr in the original languages with facing-page translations (6–255), textual notes (257–422), eleven critical essays on the rebellion and its textual afterlives (423–584), a chronology (1–4), and comprehensive bibliography (585–99). The sources themselves span three centuries (1370–1597), six languages (Middle English, Welsh, Anglo-Norman, Latin, French, and Early Modern English; with both poetry and prose represented in most), and a broader range of genres than this reviewer could tally: prophecies, praise poems, legal documents, land grants, royal proclamations, letters, rolls of parliament, chronicles, eyewitness accounts of battles, and genealogies, to name a representative sample. The accompanying [End Page 179]notes are extensive and helpful, and it is clear that great care was taken to make each document accessible to non-specialists: every note includes a list of manuscript sources, a general introduction, and line-by-line commentary that explain such intricacies as prophetic allusions, translation choices, geographical references, and features of poetic style. The notes also cross-reference other documents in the Casebookand include relevant photographs and images.
As Livingston explains in the Preface, “given the complexities inherent … it seems most helpful to present the sources collected here in something close to chronological order” (xiv). While readily acknowledging its perils, the editors’ decision to proceed chronologically has created a volume that provides an accessible overview of Glyndŵr’s life and legend while facilitating unprecedented comprehensiveness across the Anglo(Norman)/Welsh divide. While some readers (this reviewer is not one) might object to separating Part 1 of Adam of Usk’s Chroniclefrom Part 4 by one hundred pages and fifty intervening documents, the decision to arrange sources chronologically opens the door to moments of cross-cultural comparison which would not otherwise be possible. It is impossible to do the breadth of these sources justice; a few examples must suffice. On the same page of the Casebook, we find the opening line of a Welsh poem by Iolo Goch (#27), “Behold a world caused by English arrogance!” a few lines below another document, the Anglo-Norman Rolls of Parliament(#25), which coolly states that “no Englishman married to … any other Welshwoman since the rebellion of the said Owain, or who in future marries any Welshwoman, should be appointed to any office in Wales, or in the march of Wales” (71).
While this example is sympathetic to a Welsh perspective, the Casebookis evenhanded, a testament to its editors’ goal “to present a balanced (i.e., neither pro-Welsh or anti-Welsh) perspective” (xiv). Indeed, another benefit to arranging sources chronologically is that the striking contrast between the cool and calculated political rhetoric of ex post factonarrations of the rebellion (by both Welsh and English), and the very real terror (English) and urgency (Welsh) felt at the time of the revolt itself, is clearly evident. Thus while the rebellion was occurring, we can read English pleas from besieged castles — as in Jankyn Havard’s...