contributor.author: Derrick G. Pitard

title.none: Rosenthal, Late Medieval England (Derrick G. Pitard)

identifier.other: baj9928.0407.015 04.07.15

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Derrick G. Pitard, Slippery Rock University, lollard@att.net

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2004

identifier.citation: Rosenthal, Joel T. Late Medieval England (1377-1485): A Bibliography of Historical Scholarship, 1990-1999. Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, 2003. Pp. xii, 285. $45.00 1-58044-075-4. ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 04.07.15

Rosenthal, Joel T. Late Medieval England (1377-1485): A Bibliography of Historical Scholarship, 1990-1999. Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, 2003. Pp. xii, 285. $45.00 1-58044-075-4. ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

Derrick G. Pitard
Slippery Rock University
lollard@att.net

Bibliographies might seem to be the most objectively disinterested of academic productions. They somehow promise the objective truth, enshrining work for perpetuity in a case for all to gaze at. Of course, they aren't; to believe so is as naive as to believe that history is just "what happened." They are only the first step towards substantial work, and Rosenthal's work is no exception.

Rosenthal's introduction addresses problems in what might seem to be the otherwise perfectly clear set of parameters he sets out in his title. Correctly, I think, he wants to err on the side of inclusiveness. First, chronological boundaries are often crossed by historians. At the end of his period, for instance, his primary criteria here is that "I have tried to take a firm line about not covering work that deals with events after Henry VII's accession, though there are numerous exceptions and instances of editorial fudging" (vii). Second, the boundaries of the discipline of "History" have altered, which of course alters the concept of what a "Bibliography of Historical Scholarship" might include (this of course highlights another way in which Bibliographies are not objective: they are time-bound compilations). Here, he avoids work on "what we could call creative writing," by which Rosenthal seems to mean the literature of the period. Here he fudges as well, as we shall see.

The book is divided into twelve chapters. I will list each, and develop comments along the way. Chapter 1, "Edited volumes and Collected Papers," is sensibly its own category, since the contents of essay collections can be very varied. Here, from the first entry (David Aers and Lynn Staley, The Powers of the Holy), it is clear that Rosenthal has felt comfortable moving beyond the traditional boundaries of history. There is much (wonderfully) detailed historical work in this volume, but both Aers and Staley work in English departments, and their analyses depend heavily upon reading texts closely. In this section there are also collections on art (Medieval Architecture and its Intellectual Content, ed. Fernie and Crossley); mysticism (vol. 6 of The Medieval Mystical Tradition, ed. Glasscoe), paleography (Parkes, Scribes, Scripts, and Readers), and more literature (Langland, the Mystics, and the Medieval English Religious Tradition, ed. Phillips). Perhaps the volume is not just a summary of "historical scholarship," but a list of "what historians should know."

Chapter 2, entitled "Bibliographies, Review Articles, References Studies, etc.," alone has 76 entries. Not all, though, are other indices of scholarship, as entries include obituaries, collections of scholarly letters, manuscript catalogues, and the volumes of the Index of Middle English Prose. Chapter 3, "General, Political, Biographical, Military, and Diplomatic History" is a section with few surprises. Users should note that each section of the book includes editions as well as studies; here, for example, Rosenthal lists the new edition of the Chronicle of Adam Usk, ed. by the prolific Christopher Given-Wilson. Chapter 4, "Legal, Administrative, and Constitutional History" is likewise a good description of its contents. The inclusion here of Anne Middleton's "Acts of Vagrancy: The C Version 'Autobiography' and the Statue of 1388," on Piers Plowman, again indicates how Rosenthal has been inclusive of various disciplines.

Chapter 5, "Social and Economic, Regional and Family History, Numismatics, and Demography" is more of a catch-all category. This chapter also includes work on the history of the language, such as Norman Blake's essays in the Cambridge History of the English Language, other essays from this volume, and Seth Lerer's essay "William Caxton" from the new Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature. The title of Chapter 6, "Women, Domesticity, Marriage, Sex and Sexuality (and Margery Kempe)" includes "Margery Kempe" in the title to indicate that all work on Kempe is collected here rather than elsewhere in the volume. This chapter would be an excellent place for someone working on Kempe to start--helped a bit by the brief annotations which Rosenthal includes throughout the volume.

The titles of Chapter 7, "Urban and Municipal History," and Chapter 8, "Rural, Manorial, and Agricultural History, and Uppity Peasants," are, again, self explanatory. I did note an error here which indicates a larger issue in the volume that users should know. In Chapter 7, Steven Justice's article "Inquisition, Speech, and Writing: The Case from Medieval Norwich" (item 1018) says that publication information is "in item 1316." Item 1316, however, is Justice's article again, but now in Chapter 9, "Religion and Church History" (in a category which actually seems to make more sense, since the article is about the heresy trials). Here, the entry says "See item 1277" for the full reference--which is yet another essay, but now with a reference to the essay collection (Criticism and Dissent in the Middle Ages, ed Rita Copeland). There are two reasons beyond quibbling to mention this. First, Rosenthal indexes essay collections in two ways. Some are in Chapter 1, and later references in the volume look back to there. But some, like Copeland's collection, are not. Why not? It would be a lot easier than chasing down the full reference through other entries in the volume. Second, is listing Justice's essay twice a mistake? It seems to be; I don't see other instances of double indexing in the volume. But of course, there might be instances I've missed, and not knowing whether items are listed twice or not is a bit disconcerting. Do I have to look through all chapters to find relevant items, or not?

The lesson is, perhaps, that whether this is a matter of proofreading or categorization, the only remedy is a lesson true of all bibliographies: page through the whole thing. Bibliographies are not the equivalent of card catalogues, but of actual library shelves. Browse them.

Chapter 9 on "The Church and Religion" (the topic I admit the most familiarity with) does have a few gaps, though the primary texts seem to be here: he misses, for instance, several essays by Anne Hudson which appeared in the 1990s. Chapter 10 catches all of these topics: "Intellectual History: Science and Technology, Schools and Education, Medicine and Hospitals." But even this is not all. It also includes essays on the book trade, codicology, and the history of print. Chapter 11, "The Fine Arts: Painting and Illumination, Sculpture, Architecture and Building, Music" describes what is perhaps a more coherent set of disciplines--though note that work on codicology also appears here (item 1691--on a book binder), along with work on manuscript illuminations.

Chapter 12, "Better Late than Never," includes works that came to Rosenthal's notice to late to be included in the first eleven chapters, but which could not be left out; he includes here the chapters under which he would have categorized them. He also provides an index of "Authors and Editors."

For virtually all the items in the volume (there are few exceptions), Rosenthal provides brief annotations--one sentence only--to digest their contents. This is a help, though it can raise questions too. His explanation of one item in the final chapter on the Fine Arts, "Millstones from Medieval Manors" (item 1687) doesn't explain to me why it's not in chapter 8, under Manorial History. But, I'd rather have the comments than not. It is very helpful to know whether an article is a survey or an in depth study.

And of course there is work which is not included which really should be, and he acknowledges this inevitability in his introduction. Jesse Gellrich's Discourse and Dominion in the Fourteenth Century, on political philosophy, is a gap, as are the essays in Paul Strohm's volume Hochon's Arrow. He does not include reprints, even if substantial changes were made: examples are Michael Clanchy's From Memory to Written Record (rpt. 1993) and Malcolm Lambert's Medieval Heresy (rpt. 1994). More omissions could be listed if a user wanted to hold Rosenthal to his goal of including work which stretches disciplinary boundaries. Mary Carruther's The Book of Memory (pub. 1990) does not concern history per se, but it would seem to hold vast implications for how history was recorded in the Middle Ages.

Again, the lesson: any bibliography is only a place to start. Having used the volume for a few months, Rosenthal's volume works well. To say caveat lector is not a criticism as much as a comment on perennial bibliographical quandaries. Rosenthal will be very helpful.