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Reviewed by:
  • Norman Rule in Normandy, 911–1144 by Mark Hagger
  • James Doherty
Norman Rule in Normandy, 911–1144 By Mark Hagger. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2017.

In his new contribution to the substantial body of scholarship on medieval Normandy, Mark Hagger examines the means by which the dukes of the region obtained and then maintained power in the period 911–1144. Hagger's previous monographs include a biography of William the Conqueror (William: King and Conqueror) and a study of the Verdun family in England, Ireland and Wales over the course of three centuries (The Fortunes of a Norman Family: The de Verduns in England, Ireland and Wales, 1066–1316). His other publications have focused on the records of governance, the nature of lordship and the practicalities of rule in Normandy and Anglo-Norman England. The author is, then, concerned with the nuts and bolts of authority; indeed, that is his focus in this sizable study.

At the outset, it is made clear that Norman Rule in Normandy is a political history, and, as Hagger states, issues such as literature, art, and intellectual developments are not considered unless they have a political dimension (p. xviii). No other work, though, has covered Norman rule in such depth over the entire period examined in this book or placed such emphasis on the surviving ducal acta.

The introduction is primarily an overview of the source base, and it is followed by a book of two parts that is divided along methodological lines. Part I, "Conquest, Concession, Conversion and Competition: Building the Duchy of Normandy," comprises five chapters, all of them analytical narratives. Chapters 1–3 offer an outline of the major developments in the duchy during the chronological scope of the book, while in Chapter 4, "Holier than Thou: The Dukes and the Church," Hagger examines the nature of ecclesiastical power in medieval Normandy, as well as the dukes' relations with Rome. In the final chapter of Part I, "Sovereigns, Styles, and Scribes," the focus moves to the vicissitudes of the ducal relationship with the French crown. It is understandable that Hagger has adopted a narrative approach in Part I. The period covered by this book gave rise to some of the most impactful events and movements in Western European history, such as the ascent of the Capetians, the Norman Conquest of England, the Gregorian Reform, the Investiture Contest, and the First Crusade. To cover a period of such monumental [End Page 244] change does, then, justify so substantial a chronological overview, and it makes the second part of this work, where Hagger's expertise is most clearly apparent, accessible to those less familiar with the history and/or historiography of medieval Normandy. One potential drawback in adopting such an approach is that, for some readers, Norman Rule in Normandy will feel like two different books bound together.

Part II is a series of thematic studies over the longue durée. Chapters 6–11 include in-depth investigations of executive authority, the performance and experience of power, the enforcement of justice, communication in the duchy and further afield, finance, and the personnel within the orbit of ducal influence. The approach implemented in Part II is in many ways a simple (not simplistic) one. Hagger sets himself a series of straightforward and interrelated questions to answer regarding the mechanics of power. For instance, in Chapter 9, "Movements, Messengers, Mandates, and Minions," he asks, amongst other questions: what did a count actually do in the duchy, how were messages sent, and who was tasked with delivering writs? The answers he provides, however, are often complex, nuanced and make significant contributions to the study of medieval power relations.

Throughout, the author draws on his vast experience of research in Normandy's archives, and he offers extensive analysis of the material. The inclusion of tables to present the findings of statistical analyses is particularly useful. The titles used in pre-conquest acta, for example, appear in a clear table (p. 268) and this can be contrasted to the titles used in post-conquest acta, as represented in table six (p. 293). Also included in this...


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