Brenda Bolton

title.none: Abulafia, ed., The New Cambridge Medieval History, Vol. 5 (Bolton)

identifier.other: baj9928.0101.009 01.01.09

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Brenda Bolton, Queen Mary and Westfield College,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2001

identifier.citation: Abulafia, David, ed. The New Cambridge Medieval History, Vol. 5: c. 1198- c. 1300. The New Cambridge Medieval History. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999. Pp. vii, 1045. $120.00. ISBN: 0-512-36289-x.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 01.01.09

Abulafia, David, ed. The New Cambridge Medieval History, Vol. 5: c. 1198- c. 1300. The New Cambridge Medieval History. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999. Pp. vii, 1045. $120.00. ISBN: 0-512-36289-x.

Reviewed by:

Brenda Bolton
Queen Mary and Westfield College

This, the fifth in the monumental seven volume series of the New Cambridge Medieval History (NCMH), entitled simply c.1198-c.1300, provides a supreme example of scholarly gravitas within the period, weighing in at a substantial four pounds and with more than one thousand pages of text. All of the thirty five contributors are acknowledged specialists in their field. Their mission is to convince us that the thirteenth century has far more to offer historians today than the conflict between popes and emperors which dominated the original Cambridge Medieval History (CMH), volume VI, subtitled Victory of the Papacy and published almost exactly seventy years ago. In his Introduction, the volume's editor, David Abulafia, lays considerable emphasis on drawing out the differences between the NCMH and its elderly predecessor, not only in approach and substance but also in the variety and differing nature of the contributors. For him, indeed, the distinguished authors whose works graced the publication of 1929 were not only 'more Oxford than Cambridge'--but worse than this--included no American contributor amongst their number. Perhaps on the brighter side, even so long ago, there were no fewer than two female contributors. In the 1999 version, the 'defects' of yesteryear are partially remedied. The present volume allows Cambridge to win outright since no author actually teaching at Oxford has been included--although several are graduates of that university--whilst there seem to be at least four transatlantic representatives. This correctly signals the significant contribution made by North Americans to the later twentieth-century study of the European Middle Ages. The remaining authors include four from France, two from Australia and Israel respectively, one each from Norway, the Netherlands and Italy and a resident of Lithuania, although not a national of that country. In addition to Cambridge, representatives from British universities come from England, Scotland and Wales. Such an international mix is greatly to be welcomed as essential in any serious study of European history. But alas, the progress has not been all one way. In 1999, the number of female contributors stands regrettably at half that of 1929--namely one--Kathryn Reyerson being the sole representative of women historians of the thirteenth century, if not of thirteenth-century women.

For the NCMH, Abulafia lays claim to a demanding agenda. Certainly the volume has an altogether wider geographical range and a definitely much less narrow definition of what constitutes Europe than did its predecessor. This work's focus is now firmly on the new frontier regions and their interaction with the old heart-lands, a theme which underlies the whole thirteenth century. The perspective is horizontal (NCMH) rather than vertical (CMH), stretching far beyond the frontiers of Latin Christendom to include, amongst others, Mamluk and Mongol peoples. Reflecting the editor's interests, much more material is included on the Mediterranean world of Spain, Italy, the islands, the Balkans and the points at which Egypt and the Muslim states impact on the West. As to the East, the short-lived Latin Empire and Byzantium after 1204 are given their own chapter but Byzantine history proper is to be found in the separate fourth volume from Cambridge. The scope of this volume allows for new horizons to be examined from the mid-eleventh century onwards in East Central Europe, Rus and Scandinavia. In addition, most of the parts or sections go beyond the chronological endings of the 1929 work.

The editor claims that his selection of contributors was made on the basis that they had not already provided a survey of their topic elsewhere and would be able thereby to provide a fresher and more original account. In a few cases, the extensive bibliographical references by the authors to their own works belie this pious editorial aspiration but the general clarity and readability of the volume is not damaged by a situation which is really unavoidable. Their contributions, of course, have a much wider and more specific remit than that which may have been for any earlier articles and so there is some justification for the editor's claim. If, for any particular topic, there are relatively few specialists, then it is extraordinarily difficult to avoid returning to one's own material--which is, after all, the best available. Abulafia's brief to his authors was that they should provide a 'balanced and authoritative' coverage of political history between c.1200 and c.1300, fully integrating economic, social and cultural topics into the political developments. The existence of parallel volumes, The Cambridge Economic History of Europe (1987) and The Cambridge History of Political Ideas (1991), meant that many topics of interest falling within this period were already substantially covered elsewhere. Where such gaps did exist, some authors have been encouraged to find space within their sections or chapters to make good the omissions. As editor of this enterprise, Abulafia himself took responsibility for 'sealing the joins' between the corresponding chapters and his efforts have been brilliantly rewarded. Consequently, the volume reads very smoothly and the continuity is exceptional.

To attempt to review such a work as the NCMH goes against the grain of the way in which the book is intended to be used. A straightforward reading-through defeats the object of the exercise since it is difficult for any one person to marshal sufficient expertise to evaluate the whole. How many others will ever be called upon to read the NCMH from cover to cover and then look back to the CMH to make comparisons? The answer must be only the unfortunate reviewer! The volume is a work of synthesis and reference with chapters and sections deliberately intended to be self- contained--vital for dipping in to--for seeing, as the editor reminds us, "where the horizon ought to be". Each area covered should indicate recent lines of inquiry and direct our research paths in the future. If the volume succeeds even partially in this task, it will have proved itself an advance on its predecessor.

Nevertheless, turning to the structure of the work and the individual contributions, Abulafia is to be congratulated on producing a splendidly coherent volume. He himself has been a major contributor, responsible for not only the Introduction but also for three other sub-sections and complete chapters. The other thirty-four contributions are divided between six chapters or parts, addressing "Common Themes", "The Church in the Thirteenth Century", "The Western Kingdoms", "Italy" (which merits a whole part to itself), "The Mediterranean Frontiers" and finally, "The Northern and Eastern Frontiers". The volume concludes with an Appendix of Genealogical Tables for France, Hohenstaufen Germany and Sicily, England, Aragon-Catalonia, East-Central Europe and Scotland and eighteen black and white plates relevant to many aspects of the volume. The individual contributors seem to have been allowed free expression in regard to their extensive bibliographies which has meant that while most list primary and secondary sources, a few have not made this differentiation and others refer only to secondary sources. Some authors have considered it to be appropriate to sub-divide their bibliographies into region or topic and this has proved to be most helpful.

A pleasing development in the NCMH as compared with the earlier edition is the central provision of thematic essays more in keeping with today's needs than the fairly unremitting political history of its predecessor. This overall impression is particularly re-enforced by Part I, actually entitled "Common Themes", which sets the scene for the whole volume with wide-ranging discussions of social change, commerce and communications, the vernacular and art and architecture. This arrangement is not only more logical than that of the earlier CMH, opening as it did with politics and where mention of these topics is delayed until the end of the volume in chapters XIV, XV and XXII. Our new version is indeed a rewarding contrast! Social change in the thirteenth century is dealt with in three sections. Robert Stacey takes on the nobility, an unenviable task made vastly more difficult by huge regional differences, for example, between France and Italy or between English knights of the shire and German ministeriales , but ends up by comprehensively identifying the process by which a socially diverse aristocracy of barons, knights and urban magnates became a noble class. In a fresh and highly evocative piece on urban society--one of the liveliest in the volume--Steven Epstein, drawing on testamentary evidence, concludes that, while their walls and moats made the cities more physically impressive in the period c.1198-1300, they also became more impressive in the spiritual sense as urban charity became more effective and many people handed over their problems to the Church. As to rural society, Gerard Sivery emphasises that increased agricultural production, resulting from the introduction of the heavy plough, horse harness and three- field system, was itself a vital pre-condition of significant urban growth. Addressing such major questions of the century as population growth, technological development, freedom or autonomy and the new serfdom, he concludes that the diversity of the regions make any uniform conclusions impossible. The cyclical nature of the new economy is further linked to themes of charitable funding for the poor and the stress placed on Christian duty in times of crisis.

Kathryn Reyerson's chapter on commerce and communication provides a real sense of the excitement as Europe begins to emerge as an integrated whole. For her, the thirteenth century is at once the apogee of medieval economic expansion before later crises and also the autumn of the Middle Ages. Her stress on literacy amongst the growing merchant class fits in well with the brief but lively chapter of the late Colin Smith dealing with the outburst of vernacular in sermons and general histories and in the astonishing amount of literary interchange. Paul Binski, in an excellent chapter, explodes the myth of one single Gothic idiom in cathedral construction and focuses on the significance of the image-relic with its emphasis on the body of Christ as a means to salvation. His discussion of Rome as an important benchmark in art is masterly but he does tend to interpret its collapse as a papal city as inevitable.

This form of interpretation also tends to play a role in Part II which deals with the hierarchical Church and its relationship to laity, clergy, monks, Jews and heretics as well as to the universities and scholasticism. Jack Watt's magisterial survey of the eighteen pontificates of the thirteenth century, from their peak under Innocent III to their decline with Boniface VIII, provides a clear reassessment of the dominant 'Victory of the Papacy' theme of the CMH and an emphatic rehabilitation of the work of Walter Ullmann. Bernard Hamilton's elegant essay on Catharism traces heresy from international threat to marginalised movement. This leads on naturally to Andre Vauchez's discussion of various aspects of the relationship between the hierarchical church and the laity. Lay associations to serve the 'Poor of Christ' replaced fraternities in the favour of the Church. Through their proposita , groups of lay men and women coming together in voluntary communities--such as the Humiliati of Lombardy--made public promises to consecrate themselves to God. The more eschatological movements of the thirteenth century inspired by the followers of Joachim of Fiore (d. 1202), the flagellants and the disciplinati , receive scant attention although a considerable body of research has recently appeared in this field. Of the great spiritual outburst of feminine piety in Flanders, Brabant and the Rhineland, there is little or no mention.

Kenneth Stow's admirably balanced chapter on the Jews highlights the problems they faced when the limits of permissible behaviour were clarified once and for all by the Church. Popes asserted their juridical power yet did not use it indiscriminately while the expulsions of Jews in 1290 (England) and 1306 (France) were brought about by kings not by clergy. Finally, the mendicants both merit and receive an extensive examination in terms of their strikingly large preaching churches, their highly organised establishments within cities and their justifications for new forms of economic activity. The friars' role in evangelisation led them beyond the reconquest of the cities of Christendom to confront Jews, Moslems and Mongols while their erudition assisted them in turning their own texts against these non- Christians. Jacques Verger offers a study of universities and scholasticism which is largely institutional. The limitations of this movement are emphasised by his revelation that in 1300 only twelve of the studia generale founded in the early part of the century were still active whilst no fewer than eight others had collapsed. Oxford would remain the anomaly for it flourished in spite of never having been granted the ius ubique docendi . Nonetheless, in spite of early difficulties, the thirteenth century witnessed the advancement of knowledge and hitherto unknown opportunities for intellectuals, all underpinned by a strict examination system unparalleled until our own day.

While the CMH begins with a detailed consideration of political events, in the NCMH this focus begins just under a third of the way through the volume. William Chester Jordan indicates recent lines of enquiry for Capetian France from the death of Philip Augustus in 1223 to that of Philip IV in 1314, covering familiar territory with a sharp and observant eye. Equally focussed and lively is David Carpenter's Plantagenet England from the death of Richard I to the establishment of the Commons in Parliament in the 1290's and the arrival of 'a new form of kingship'--one of the less favourable results being the 'oppressive and consensual' expulsion of the Jews. Several short chapters follow: Burgundy by Eugene Cox, the Welfs, Hohenstaufens and Hapsburgs by Michael Toch and a short piece on Flanders by Wim Blockmans, all providing convenient and well-informed outlines of events.

Part IV is devoted to the Italian peninsula: the maritime republics of Pisa, Genoa and Venice by John H. Pryor; Sardinia and Corsica by Marco Tangheroni who shows vividly just how complicated were the dynastic dealings of these islands. An excellent analytical chapter on the Signori of Northern Italy by Trevor Dean sets 'tyrants' such as Ezzelino da Romano in historiographical context. Indeed, this is one of the few chapters to deal directly with historiographical questions and debates and is one of the best in the volume. Louis Green most competently charts the ascent of Florence as does David Abulafia for Sicily under the Hohenstaufens and Angevins, arguing that Angevin business contacts help to explain the high degree of Latin penetration in this multi-cultural land. Inexplicably missing from this Part is any discussion of Rome and the Patrimony.

It is in Parts V and VI, however, where the NCMH departs most radically from its predecessor. Part V dealing with the Medieval Frontiers is a much enlarged section going far beyond the scope of the CMH. David Jacoby sees the Latin Empire and the Frankish States in Greece actually fuelling Greek ethnic awareness and collective identity. Michael Angold's chapter on Byzantium in exile considers this period as an heroic episode in which the Eastern emperor was made responsible to society and the important role of the Orthodox Church increased while Constantinople became less relevant to a sense of Greek identity. The crusades of the century are expertly handled by Norman Housley, demolishing conspiracy theory in favour of 'the theory of accidents' to explain the Fourth Crusade and stressing the importance of Ad Liberandum , the Fourth Lateran Council decree which continued to be imitated throughout the remainder of crusading history. Above all, crusading still remained a popular movement although, as Housley shows, increasingly directed by the European monarchies, France, England, Sicily and Aragon. Peter Edbury demonstrates the originality of the crusader states up to 1290 in producing a practical consensus amongst the major interest groups and an exceptional series of treatises on court procedures and feudal custom. Robert Irwin's illuminating chapter on the rise of the Mamluks replaces the two pages devoted to them in the CMH whilst Michael Brett's piece on the Maghrib, the Muslim West, has no precedent in the older volume. Again, David Abulafia on the Nasrid kingdom of Granada offers illumination of an area which merited only momentary discussion in 1929. On Spain, additional material is provided in a subsequent excellent chapter on Aragon- Catalonia by Abulafia and on Castile, Portugal and Navarre by Peter Linehan, who is particularly successful in recreating the world of the exceptional Alfonso X of Castile - the second ruler of the thirteenth century to merit the title of Stupor mundi .

Part VI, the Northern and Eastern frontiers, reveals even greater differences between the NCMH and its predecessor. A whole chapter on the Mongols and Europe by Peter Jackson adds an exciting new dimension to the volume. Particularly successful in a similar number of pages to the CMH version is Sverre Bagge's account of the evolution of the Scandinavian kingdoms c.1200-1319 with a far more analytical probe as to the differences between them. Michael Burleigh's discussion of the evolution of the Military Orders in the Baltic introduces another new element while S. C. Rowell's detailed chapter on the East Central European kingdoms is supported by three splendid maps. Albania and Serbia merited only two pages each in the CMH and Bulgaria only eight references. Now Alain Ducellier broadens our horizons on South East Europe in nearly twenty pages while Simon Franklin completes the eastern study with an all-too- brief chapter reflecting recent historical study on Rus. The volume concludes with the careful justification of Robert Bartlett whose excellent discussion of the divergent fortunes of the Celtic lands of the British Isles conforms to the general principle of the NCMH that under no circumstances ought Wales, Scotland and Ireland to be omitted.

The whole volume has been excellently produced and I found only two typographical errors (p. 5, line 19, themselves; p. 889, Wilks M.). The eighteen black and white plates are placed at the centre of the book, a logical arrangement given that these are not all illustrative of art and architecture. The maps and genealogical tables are very clear and relate closely to the text, maps within the chapters and tables at the end of the book.

The NCMH has succeeded in providing a broader and more varied coverage of themes and regions beyond the Christian frontiers than did its predecessor. The horizontal perspective has produced a new and lively dimension to this volume, particularly in keeping with the modern need to understand the cultural background. Yet, the relative proportion of political history seems to remain almost as high as the CMH. There is also a rather surprising lack of discussion of the history of women and gender studies. Whereas in 1929 there were two references to beguines, in 1999 there are eight, none consecutive but more or less random. The four references to Joachim of Fiore of 1929 are merely doubled in the NCMH, thus ignoring the vast research industry on the Calabrian abbot. The great outbursts of female piety, of literature for women and of what today we understand as religious revivalism are permanent landmarks in the writing of thirteenth-century history, and yet all these areas fare badly in the NCMH. My personal preference would have been for the inclusion of a discrete chapter on Rome and the Patrimony within Part IV. While some Roman material turns up under art and architecture and other fragments in the chapter on the papacy, the City remained throughout the century the centre of the Church with all that that implied. After all, one need only turn to the work of Robert Brentano or Agostino Paravicini Bagliani to assess the quality and quantity of available original material for Rome and its surroundings. In spite of these criticisms, the NCMH makes a genuine contribution to a 'balanced and authoritative' coverage of topics, bringing the thirteenth into the twenty-first century. But I won't be throwing my CMH out just yet for these two volumes remain a complementary pair for the interested (old-fashioned?) historian who still enjoys comparing and contrasting! Many medievalists will wish to own this volume rather than being in competition with the open access shelves of libraries.