Bradford Eden

title.none: Given-Wilson, ed., An Illustrated History of Late Medieval England (Eden)

identifier.other: baj9928.9807.006 98.07.06

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Bradford Eden, North Harris Montgomery Community College District,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1998

identifier.citation: Given-Wilson, Chris, ed. An Illustrated History of Late Medieval England. New York: Manchester University Press, 1996. Pp. xi, 292. $45.00. ISBN: ISBN 0-719-04152-X.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 98.07.06

Given-Wilson, Chris, ed. An Illustrated History of Late Medieval England. New York: Manchester University Press, 1996. Pp. xi, 292. $45.00. ISBN: ISBN 0-719-04152-X.

Reviewed by:

Bradford Eden
North Harris Montgomery Community College District

There have been a number of illustrated histories of medieval England to appear in the last decade, most notably The Oxford Illustrated History of Medieval England, edited by Nigel Saul (1997) and Edmund King's Medieval England: 1066- 1485 (1988). The main focus of this work, obviously, is the latter medieval period in English history. Mr. Given- Wilson uses the introductory section of his book to explain the OED and Collins English Dictionary definitions of "Middle Ages," and to support his assertion that the time period of 1200-1500 (with plenty of room for variation) will be used throughout as the definition for late medieval England. He describes his rationale for this decision, namely the decline of papal authority and the feudal monarchy, and the rise of the nation states. He also mentions the two conflicting opinions of movement through history, namely the linear, pessimistic Christian viewpoint and the cyclical, confident secular viewpoint. He elaborates on the significance of the Black Death as a major turning point in late medieval England, and gives a short discussion on the concepts of people, lordship, and kingship in late medieval England, as well as a very short history of English kings from 1200-1500.

The book is divided into three main sections. The first section, The Land and its People, is comprised of four chapters. "The English Landscape" by Mark Bailey is a fairly straightforward presentation of this topic, and serves as introduction to the next three essays. "Population and Economic Resources," also by Mark Bailey, focuses on the effect of the Black Death in 1348/49, and how the 40% loss of population affected the English economy. The significance of the grain, wool, shipbuilding, and ore markets is briefly mentioned. "Family and Inheritance, Women and Children" by Paul Brand discusses the development of medieval marriage and annulment in late medieval England. Rights of husbands, wives, and children are mentioned, as are inheritance and wardship rules. In "Health, Diet, Medicine and the Plague" by Simone Macdougall, the art of the physician in the late medieval period is explained. There are some wonderful black and white illustrations given, especially showing the fistula in ano procedures which became standard practice at this time. Peasant and aristocratic eating habits are discussed, as well as the rise of the surgeon. A short treatment on the plague and its manifestations is also given.

The second section, Forms of Expression, is comprised of three chapters. "Religious Sensibility" by Richard Davies describes the medieval Church year, the development of purgatory, the role of death in late medieval English society, funerals as signs of status, and peasant religious practices. Ian Johnson does a wonderful job of succinctly describing the major literary works of late medieval England in his chapter, "Language and Literary Expression." A dialect map of Middle English is given, and mention is made of the following works: Brut, Sir Orfeo, Sir Gowther, Ancrene Wisse, Cloud of Unknowing, Julian of Norwich's Showings, Piers Plowman, Pearl, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Chaucer is given some coverage as well. "Forms of Artistic Expression" by Nigel Ramsay deals with the various arts of sculpture, architecture, artists, and guilds.

The third section, Politics and the Nation, has four major essays. "The Political Institutions of the Realm" by Ralph Griffiths describes the development of the King's Chancery/Chancellor, the Treasurer, the Exchequer, the Chamber and Wardrobe of the Household, the Council, and Parliament. Michael Hicks, in his chapter "Lawmakers and Lawbreakers," discusses peasant and aristocratic justice, the development of church and secular court structure, and the emergence of the King's Bench and Common Pleas. "Civil War and Rebellion" by Simon Walker describes four main types of rebellion in late medieval England: reformist rebellions, dynastic uprisings, popular uprisings, and religious uprisings. The development of the war state, which is highly taxed and intensely governed, was explained as part of the reason for many of the rebellious uprisings in late medieval England. Finally, in "England and its Neighbors" by Chris Given-Wilson, the various relationships and political contacts with France, Wales, Flanders, Scotland, and Ireland are described and briefly explained.

The book, as expected from the title, has a number of wonderful color plates, as well as a plethora of black and white illustrations. Many can be seen in other similiar illustrated histories of medieval England. The section on health and diet had a number of interesting illustrations that I have not seen before. As a whole, the book provides a well-rounded presentation of late medieval England, as prescribed by the time period 1200-1500. I was disappointed that many of the fine arts were not mentioned, namely music and painting. England's rise as a musical power, especially in the number of English composers in residence at Burgundian and other Continental courts, fueled the musical evolution that took place in the Renaissance, and some discussion of this would be in order. Otherwise, it is a wonderful visual and textual compilation of life in late medieval England.