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STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER whether French, English, or German. Both Morris and Schmolke­ Hasselmann attempt to get into the minds of those who, from Geoffrey ofMonmouth to Malory, invented a "historical Arthur" the legendary hero ofchronicle and romance-in conformity with various political, social, and ideological intentions. Wright has shown how such intentions could become strategies for adaptation. To the extent that they have succeeded, these studies are examples not only of historical scholarship but also of historical criticism, criticism that relies on identifiable and demonstrable medieval practices to evaluate a work's intention and achievement. DOUGLAS KELLY University ofWisconsin, Madison MICHAEL]. BENNETI, Community, Class and Careerism: Cheshire andLancashire Society in theAge ofSir Gawain andthe Green Knight. Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought. 3d ser., vol. 18. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983. Pp. xii, 286. $49.50. This study of social structure in northwestern England in the period 1375 to 1425 contains material ofconsiderable interest to literary scholars. While Bennett concludes with a particular thesis about the milieu of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, readers interested in the social setting ofthe alliterative revival will also find pertinent data in the comprehensive treatment oflater-fourteenth­ century social stratification and mobility that informs the study as a whole. The first section ofthe book surveys the "social geography" of Cheshire and Lancashire, arguing that a regionial oligarchy oflesser gentry united the two counties. This section includes a stimulating chapter on "Lesser Solidarities," including structures afforded by the hundred, the parish, the manor, and the township or vill. More might have been done here or elsewhere after the example of Dhondt or Phythian-Adams to describe the guilds and fraternities 170 REVIEWS and other social units that supplemented the more physical associa­ tions under discussion. Yet the discussion of these solidarities re­ mains a refreshing complement to more traditional and hierarchical representations ofmedieval society. In the second section Bennett analyzes the social structure of the region, especially in terms of the way in which land tenure sup­ ported the distinction between a landed society of gentry living from rents and a peasantry dependent on labor. Important to those interested in literary culture is his persuasive demonstration that, as a consequence of external control of the earldom and the duchy, later-fourteenth-century Cheshire and Lancashire contained no important baronial households. Instead, with resident gentry pos­ sessingover three-quarters ofthe manorswithin the region, author­ ity and accumulation ofwealth were considerably decentralized-at least until the rise ofthe Stanleys in the fifteenth century. Bennett is frank about the difficulty of documenting the exact forms of land tenure available to the peasantry in the fourteenth century, though he follows most commentators in emphasizing the movement from villenage to leasehold within the period. He is adroit in balancing the claims ofHinton's argument for the peasantry as a distinct class with his own documentation ofconsiderable variation ofwealth and status among peasant families. The greater part ofthe energy and originality ofthis study lies in its third section, which treats possibilities for social mobility that cut across the traditional divisions of landed society. In a series of conceptually energetic and well-documentedchapters, he describes the routes to careerist advancement opened by the emergence of a kingdomwide "network of opportunities." "Towns, Trade and In­ dustry" outlines possibilities created for traders and craftsmen by the emerging national economic system, with especially tempting possibilities for London entrepreneurship open to sons ofprovincial gentry and burgesses. Other chapters treat avenues ofadvancement afforded by the church and the military and expanding possibilities in law and administration. All these possibilities, and especially the latter ones, were enhanced by expanding connections between the court and later-fourteenth-century Cheshire and early-fifteenth­ century Lancashire. 171 SWDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER This cluster of chapters is enriched by the presentation of short biographies exemplifying career possibilities actually realized by persons of the region.Judicious use of predecessors and original archival research have enabled Bennett to illustrate the social mobil­ ity open to small freeholders (William Jodrell), the possibilities of entrepreneurship open to members of the gentry (Richard Clitheroe), the church as a national arena for advancement (Robert Hallum and ThomasLangley), the rewards available to...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1949-0755
Print ISSN
0190-2407
Pages
pp. 170-173
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Open Access
No
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