contributor.author: Damir Karbic

title.none: Duggan, ed., Nobles and Nobility in Medieval Europe (Karbic)

identifier.other: baj9928.0105.001 01.05.01

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Damir Karbic, dkarbic@hazu.hr

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2001

identifier.citation: Duggan, Anne, ed. Nobles and Nobility in Medieval Europe. New York: Boydell, 2000. Pp. vii, 278. $75.00. ISBN: 0-851-15769-6.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 01.05.01

Duggan, Anne, ed. Nobles and Nobility in Medieval Europe. New York: Boydell, 2000. Pp. vii, 278. $75.00. ISBN: 0-851-15769-6.

Reviewed by:

Damir Karbic
dkarbic@hazu.hr

This volume consists of 14 individual papers. With exception of one, that of David A. Carpenter, all of them were presented at the Third International Conference organised by the Centre for Late Antique and Medieval Studies (CLAMS) and held at King's College London in April 1998 under the title "Nobles and Nobility in the Middle Ages." The papers are accompanied by an introductory chapter by Anne J. Duggan, the editor of the volume (pp. 1-14), a short preface (p. XI), lists of illustrations (p. VII), contributors (p. VIII), abbreviations (pp. IX-X), and an index of personal and geographical names and important terms (pp. 275-285). Papers in the volume cover wide chronological (from Late Antiquity to the Late Middle Ages) and geographical range (from Norway to Portugal and from British Isles to Poland). They also cover a wide range of subjects, from issues regarding the origins of medieval nobility to different aspects of noble life and development in particular periods and regions, as well as different approaches to the study of medieval nobility currently going on in Europe and America (from political and social history to lexical analysis).

The volume consists of three parts, each named for the long chronological period with which the respective papers deal (Early Middle Ages, Central Middle Ages, and Late Middle Ages), which is the simplest possible division. Regarding the fact that the subtitle of the volume is "Concepts, Origins, Transformations," and the fact that the basic idea of the conference and consequently of the volume itself was "to enable comparisons to be made across time...and between very different areas and phases of political development" (p. xi), it is pity that the editor did not try to pursue that division a little further. It is much more so, because the editor in her introduction proposed several possibilities for doing it that way. However, it is only a minor criticism, and each reader can establish connections between different articles personally.

In her "Introduction: Concepts, Origins, Transformations" (pp. 1-14) Anne J. Duggan assesses basic issues with which the whole volume is concerned. She discusses important changes in terminology, of both Latin and Germanic origin, from Late Antiquity to the Late Middle Ages, and addresses issues which shall be further explored in the volume, while summarising their results.

Paul Fouracre in his article "The Origins of the Nobility in Francia" (pp. 17-24) critically assesses former scholarship on relationship between Frankish and Gallo- Roman elites, distinction between notions of 'public' and 'private' power, regional differences, and similar issues. He concludes that the "complexity which these studies reveal is not in the least surprising given the diverse origins of the Frankish nobility and the difficult competitive conditions in which it operated". (23) Stuart Airlie's article "The Nearly Men: Boso of Vienne and Arnulf of Bavaria" (pp. 25-41) investigates, through analyses of careers of two 'kinglets' of the late ninth and early tenth centuries, qualities needed to "make the leap from nobility to royalty" and reasons why their achievements remained only ephemeral. In her article "Nobility in the Ninth Century" (pp. 43-51) Janet L. Nelson systematically explores development of term nobilis and its cognates from St. Jerome's works and particularly in his Vulgate Bible through Carolingian Capitularies to three ninth-century works: Einhard's Vita Karoli, Dhuoda's Liber Manualis, and Nithard's Histories. The author stresses both traditional and innovative elements in the ninth-century understanding of nobility and concludes that the latter were most important, at least, for the authors under research. To the article are added listings of relevant quotations from both Capitularies and the authors mentioned above.

The following article, "Continuity and Change in the Tenth- Century Nobility" of Regine Le Jan (pp. 53-68), stresses that, although the way the tenth-century nobility represented itself did not very much change in regard to the previous period, the political and social context of the Carolingian world profoundly changed at that time. She explores that changes in three basic areas: relationship between nobility and kingship, transformation of kinship structure of the elites in different areas of the Empire, and the emergence of the militia and its relationship to the nobility. Jane Roberts in her article "The Old English Vocabulary of Nobility" (pp. 69-84) summarises and presents results of her work on the project "Thesaurus of Old English," currently going on the King's College London, and its application for defining an Anglo-Saxon notion of nobility. In the last article of the first section of the volume, "Nobles and Others: The Social and Cultural Expression of Power Relations in the Middle Ages" (pp. 85-98), Timothy Reuter deals with social markers defining medieval nobility: arbitrary use of coercive force, life-style (including dietary habits) and bearing, organisation of living space, use of speech and similar issues, concluding that the "collective effect of all these social markers was to create a world in which aristocrats were unmistakably different, immediately recognizable". (93)

The first article of the second section, "Princely Nobility in an Age of Ambition (c. 1050-1150)" by Thomas N. Bisson (pp. 101-113), explores common characteristics of the nobility of princes and princely houses, both ecclesiastical and secular, in the wide area from Poland to France and from Denmark to Italy and Spain. The article "Words, Concepts, and Phenomena: Knighthood, Lordship, and The Early Polish Nobility, c. 1100-c. 1350" (pp. 115-155) by Piotr Gorecki, is a particularly great scholarly contribution to the research of medieval Polish nobility. In an approach similar to that of previously- mentioned Timothy Reuter's article, the author re- examines the early evidence regarding the Polish nobility and concludes that the criteria defined by the later medieval evidence and usually applied by Polish scholarship also to the earlier periods are misleading. Martin H. Jones in his paper "Nobles and Nobility in the Narrative Works of Hartmann von Aue" (pp. 157-182) discusses the social background of German courtly poet Hartmann von Aue and, based on the detailed analysis of his narrative works, reflects on his attitude towards impoverished nobility, relationship between nobility and knighthood, and the attitude of nobility towards religion. David A. Carpenter in his study "A Noble in Politics: Roger Mortimer in the Period of Baronial Reform and Rebellion, 1258-1265" (pp. 183-203), based on a detailed case- study of life and activity of a great Marcher baron during the political crisis in thirteenth-century England, analyses relationship between aristocratic interests in the higher royal policy and those regarding very limited proprietary interests. Mortimer's case points to the prevalence of the latter over the former, especially in cases when it was connected with estates perceived as a hereditary property of the family.

The following two articles deal with the nobility in two countries on the edge of the Western medieval world. Steinar Imsen's article "King Magnus and his Liegemen's 'Hirdskrl': A Portrait of the Norwegian Nobility in the 1270s" (pp. 205-220), primarily based on the legal sources, explores the relationship between Norwegian nobility and royal service. Maria Joao Violante Branco's paper "The Nobility of Medieval Portugal (XIth-XIVth Centuries)" (pp. 223-243), based on several exceptionally rich medieval genealogical collections from Portugal, discusses the development of the Portuguese nobility and external and internal factors which influenced that process. The penultimate study of the collection, "Noblewomen, Family, and Identity in Later Medieval Europe" by Jennifer C. Ward (pp. 245-262), provides an overview of the position of a noblewoman, her political and economic role, all over the Europe from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century. The author particularly explores the relationship between the position of noblewomen and marriage strategies employed by royal and aristocratic families. The last study of the volume is an article by Martin Aurell, "The Western Nobility in the Late Middle Ages: A Survey of the Historiography and Some Prospects for New Research" (pp. 263-273). The author gives an exhaustive review of most recent historiography and currently running projects (with an emphasis on the 1990s) on a wide ranging variety of subjects connected with the research of medieval nobility in countries all around Europe, ranging from Spain to Hungary. Aurell summarises present directions of research (taxonomy and regulations, social codes, gestures and modes of conduct, bonds of clientage and kinship, etc.) and concludes that "working out of these further lines of scholarly thinking will occupy an entire generation of medievalists in the future."

As already stated, the volume covers wide chronological periods and geographical areas, and contains nothing less a wide variety of possible approaches to the problem. Given the fact that preparing this kind of collection needs considerable knowledge and skill, the editor and publisher should be congratulated for a job well done. This collection may be useful and interesting for many medievalists, even those who are not exclusively interested in the history of nobility, but also in social history in general.