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The Catholic Historical Review 88.2 (2002) 349-350

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Book Review

Diplomatarium of the Crusader Kingdom of Valencia:
The Registered Charters of its Conqueror, Jaume I, 1257-1276, Volume III (Documents 501-1000): Transition in Crusader Valencia: Years of Triumph, Years of War, 1264-1270

Diplomatarium of the Crusader Kingdom of Valencia: The Registered Charters of its Conqueror, Jaume I, 1257-1276, Volume III (Documents 501-1000): Transition in Crusader Valencia: Years of Triumph, Years of War, 1264-1270. Edited by Robert I. Burns, S.J. (Princeton: Princeton University Press. 2001. Pp. xi, 578. $69.50.)

This volume represents a singular segment of a larger and immensely valuable project to recapitulate in Latin and English charters from twenty-four royal registers that relate to the Kingdom of Valencia—twenty to thirty percent of the total—during the final twenty years of the reign of the Arago-Catalan monarch, Jaume the Conqueror. The first volume (1985) of this work provides an introduction to the reign and the archives and technical information necessary for interpreting the primary data. A second volume (1991) gives us 500 charters redacted between 1257 and 1263; the current volume, the third, continues with another 500 drawn from the years 1264-1270. Subsequent volumes promise another 2,000 charters written before the Conqueror's death in 1276 as well as a bibliography and an index.

The editor, the Reverend Robert I. Burns, S.J., acknowledges no organizing principle in the current volume beyond chronology, but does provide some context for the documents. These were the years of the Mudejar rebellions in Valencia and Murcia, the king's abortive crusade to Palestine, and continued tumult in the royal household. In an introduction Burns sketches several themes—or as he puts it, defines the several kinds of "space" in which Christian colonizers lived—that inform the myriad of often humdrum details characteristic of this documentation: political and ecclesiastical structures, the royal entourage, criminal activity, taxation, economic life, war and rebellion, Muslims and Jews, as well as women acting as queens, concubines, nuns, prostitutes, and [End Page 349] widows. For the most part, this is grist for the serious researcher, the raw material out of which could be fashioned political, economic, and social history. Even students doing more basic research on broader themes will find this collection useful for that nugget of detail that lends texture to broad narratives. The appended map is useful despite its misspelling of Carcassonne and odd intermingling of French and Spanish versions of North African place-names.

In terms of organization, Burns transcribes the Latin text from the royal registers, a notable accomplishment in itself given the numerous paleographic and linguistic challenges of this source; in addition, he gives an English-language summary for each document. While such compendiums used to be commonplace in Spain, they are exceedingly rare in English and no one, other than Burns, has had the experience and patience to take on this source, at once both rich and difficult. Consequently, the Diplomatarium will serve well not only students of Valencian and Iberian history but also those whose broader continental interests touch upon the inner workings of medieval monarchy, the Church, and society. The absence of an index, however, limits the immediate utility of this volume, and one wonders whether a print index in the terminal volume will ever be able to mine the riches of this documentary collection in an adequate fashion. While many of the current experiments with electronic publication have fallen short of expectations, it seems to this reviewer that the Diplomatarium is precisely the sort of work that would benefit the most from this new medium and its enhanced search capabilities.


James William Brodman
University of Central Arkansas



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