Joseph P. Huffman

title.none: Haverkamp and Vollrath, eds., England and Germany (Huffman)

identifier.other: baj9928.9711.006 97.11.06

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Joseph P. Huffman, Messiah College,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1997

identifier.citation: Haverkamp, Alfred and Hanna Vollrath, eds. England and Germany in the High Middle Ages. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996. Pp. ix, 389. $95.00. ISBN: ISBN 0-199-20504-3.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 97.11.06

Haverkamp, Alfred and Hanna Vollrath, eds. England and Germany in the High Middle Ages. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996. Pp. ix, 389. $95.00. ISBN: ISBN 0-199-20504-3.

Reviewed by:

Joseph P. Huffman
Messiah College

As the volume's forward indicates, this collection of essays has been long in coming to publication. Alfred Haverkamp (Trier), Hanna Vollrath (Bochum), and the late Karl Leyser (Oxford) were the organizers of a comparative history symposium at which these papers were presented in July 1987 under the auspices of the German Historical Institute in London. The Institute's Bulletin (10 no. 2 [May 1988] 23-26) rightly surmised of the gathering, "This conference seems to have been the first opportunity for British and German medieval historians to meet in order to discuss German and English history in this way." Such a promising new initiative in cooperative scholarship among English and German medievalists, however, has yet to bear much fruit outside this volume. The almost decade-long time lag between conference and publication suggests continuing difficulties in Anglo-German academic collaboration.

The great strength of this book is that it makes available to Anglophone readers a wide variety of current German scholarship on medieval Germany on a scale unseen since the work of Geoffrey Barraclough during the interwar years of this century. When joined with publications by historians of medieval Germany from England like Karl Leyser, Timothy Reuter, John Gillingham, and Benjamin Arnold enough research is now available for Anglophone scholars of the European Middle Ages to integrate Germany into their Anglo-French paradigm. Though traditional essays appear on military organization, royal administration, urban institutions, and the crusades, the most impressive material comes from research into literacy, the status of Jews as "serfs of the king" in both realms, socio-economic organization on the manor, and the possibilities of social mobility in the High Middle Ages.

Christopher Dyer and Werner Rosener provide an excellent opportunity to contrast English and German manorial development, for example. Their essays effectively show how an emerging commercial economy during the High Middle Ages resulted in the gradual decline of the Villikationsverfassung (classic seigneurial manorialism) in Germany, while it actually encouraged direct aristocratic management of demesne land in England. Michael Matheus' study of social mobility introduces Anglophone readers to the German custom of commuting labor services to rents (Zensualitat) during this period, and John Gillingham does a nice job of considering the forms of vertical and horizontal social mobility in high medieval England. Given that there is virtually nothing in English on medieval German social history, these essays begin to fill a large gap in Anglophone literature.

For those interested in comparing English and German kingship, Hanna Vollrath and David Carpenter provide important evidence suggesting that magnates in both realms were equally able to resist royal power, even though royal administrative machinery was much more developed in England. As Carpenter concludes, "England had not divided into semi- independent principalities on the German model. But the great magnates had achieved the same results by different means" (125). No longer can Anglo-American medievalists assume that limited monarchy was a unique and "bad" thing in Germany and yet a unique and "good" thing in England.

On the critical side of the ledger, the volume is punctuated with spelling and grammatical errors, no doubt occasioned by the need for translations of the German contributions into English. They can be exasperating at times, though, like the declaration that, " . . . Martin Luther's Scola-Scriptura [sic!] principle undoubtely [sic] further encouraged the spread of reading and writing" (87-88). Yet the most significant weakness of this book is that it is not actually a comparative study, but rather a parallel series of stand- alone articles: those on medieval England written by English historians and those on medieval Germany written by German historians. The lengthy introduction by Vollrath, Leyser, and J.O. Prestwich frames the essay collection well, but the comparative work is really left to the reader. Therefore the volume is not as synthetic a piece of comparative scholarship as might have been hoped. Such a limitation is symbolic of the current state of Anglo-German comparative historical research, yet hopefully this long-awaited book is a first step toward overcoming the political and intellectual boundaries erected at the opening of our century.

In the final analysis, this is a significant publication with regard to medieval Germany. The articles on medieval England do not break substantial new ground, but take on significance when compared to Germany. The result is a much-needed corrective to the blind spots and stereotypical visions of medieval Germany in traditional Anglo-French historiography. Will it surprise many, for example, that at the close of the Middle Ages literacy was slightly higher in Germany than in England, as Alfred Wendehorst's article indicates? Credit must be given to any serious effort at integrating Germany into the European Middle Ages, and by doing so this volume begins a much-needed inquiry into just how different medieval Germany's "Sonderweg" really was from the English experience. No doubt the late Karl Leyser, in whose honor the book was published, would likely have been pleased with the efforts made here toward such a laudable goal.