contributor.author: David Nicholas

title.none: McKitterick, ed., Atlas of the Medieval World (David Nicholas)

identifier.other: baj9928.0605.020 06.05.20

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: David Nicholas, Clemson University (Emeritus), dmnicholas@nctv.com

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2006

identifier.citation: McKitterick, Rosamond, ed. Atlas of the Medieval World. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. Pp. 304. $45.00 0-19-522158-3. ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 06.05.20

McKitterick, Rosamond, ed. Atlas of the Medieval World. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. Pp. 304. $45.00 0-19-522158-3. ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

David Nicholas
Clemson University (Emeritus)
dmnicholas@nctv.com

This volume begins with an "Introduction" and a section on "Continuities and Discontinuities" (including re-use of physical remains) with Roman civilization, neither of which has a map. These are followed by "Medieval Perceptions of the World," which includes three medieval maps. The atlas contains three chronological sections, with parts I and II beginning with "The World in" 700 and 1000 respectively, while Part III concludes with "The World in 1500". The three parts are of roughly equal length. Part I contains 24 topics, most with a large map and a smaller map and/or an illumination; Part II contains 26 topics, while Part III has 29. Each subject is explained with several paragraphs of commentary, which usually have reference to the non-cartographic illumination. The textual introductions usually include one or more short selections from an original document that is of relevance to the topic map. Time lines accompany most maps. All maps are in color, which permits a more complex and informative key than a black-white layout.

The "medieval world" is defined in the Preface as including all regions except the Americas. While any division into topic areas is arbitrary, "political and legal" subjects are nearly twice as numerous as "Asia, Africa, and the Middle East" in Part I and twice as numerous as both "Asia, Africa, and the Middle East" and "secular cultural" in Part III. Between one and three topics are assigned in each part to "economy" and "ecclesiastical and religious" and in Parts I and II to "secular cultural". Some of the maps are quite original, but taken as a whole the volume does not stretch the reader conceptually or methodologically. The maps are generally stronger on culture and politics than on the built environment. A glossary is appended (pp. 288-294), which, perhaps anticipating that most readers will be most familiar with the west, gives considerable attention to Asia and the Middle East. A Bibliography (pp. 295-296), arranged by Parts, is useful and in most respects up-to-date, but unfortunately is arranged by title rather than author and is printed in such a tiny font that many readers, probably most of bifocal age, will have to employ magnification in order to use it.

The editor wrote all part introductions and conclusions and was responsible for the commentary and corresponding maps of most of Part I and the first four topics of Part II. Her contribution is by far the most substantial, but she was assisted by 25 other contributors, whose responsibility for specific topic areas is given (p. 5). Their contributions ranged from one to six topics.

Versions of most of the maps and the data that they plot are well known, but some are quite original. They include "Carolingian Administration", which plots Charlemagne's itinerary, residences, mints, and battles, supplemented by a smaller map of the Missatica. On "Carolingian Culture", monasteries, bishoprics, archbishoprics, and scriptoria are overlaid on a political map, but unfortunately the details lack a specific time of reference. "Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms to c. 1000" is unusual in attributing due importance to Mercia in the foundation of an English kingdom and to the tenth-century kings in its consolidation. Following the tendency in much recent British research to rescue Celtic Britain from its neglect by English historians, "The Kingdoms of Scotland, Wales and Ireland" are a separate topic, although the editor admits that grouping them into a unit is more meaningful for modern readers than for the peoples thus schematically represented. "Buildings and Power" does not try to be comprehensive, but rather shows how in four places (Baghdad, Constantinople, Chang- an, and Aachen) the palace complex was used to enhance images of the ruler's terrestrial and supernatural power; Rome, an equally obvious example, is discussed separately with a city map under "Italy and the Lombards" and again with a map plotting the churches on a city map of Rome under the rubric "Italy and the Papacy".

"Languages in the Medieval World" provides an outline of an extremely important topic. It has two maps, a world-wide (minus the Americas) one of "Language Groups" and a more specific "Language Groups in Medieval Europe" in which the sub-groups of the four main language families are plotted in broad outline. "Networks of Communication" is based mainly on trade routes, pilgrimage narratives, and princely itineraries, but this one does not go beyond the twelfth century; Bruges is not on it, although it is placed on the map of "The Commercial Revolution in the Middle Ages". This is supplemented by the curious coupling of "The Economy: Agriculture and Trade" with a map of principal trade routes in the thirteenth century without reference to agriculture, although the text does mention here the internal clearances and has a single sentence on German migration into Slavic Europe. It is followed by a map-less "Towns and Urban Life", which gives more information on the foundation of new towns in "old Europe".

"The British Isles and France to the Twelfth Century" is notable for inclusion of non-English Britain and for having two large maps, providing a comparison of 1080 and 1180 (despite the section title). "The German Empire" is suitably complex, giving prominence not only to imperial politics but also to ecclesiastical lands and to the demesne lands of Hohenstaufen and Welf in the mid-twelfth century; the inclusion of members of the Lombard League is also useful. Although the text accompanying "The Crusades" confines itself to explaining the Mediterranean Crusades, the map is notable for providing both routes to the East but also showing, albeit in less detail, the northern Crusades, the post-thirteenth century Crusades, and the movement against the Cathars. "The New Monasticism and Heresy" plots on the same map the new monastic and mendicant houses of the eleventh through thirteenth centuries, Beguine and Beghard houses, and areas with large concentrations of heretics at the end of the twelfth century. Although placed in the section on the High Middle Ages, the map of universities plots university foundations before 1500, including those that did not survive; the commentary does not go beyond the early thirteenth century, and the reader thus must figure out the rest. In Part III, Burgundy and the Swiss Confederation are linked in a single discussion, although with separate maps, both because of the Swiss role in defeating Charles the Bold in 1477 and more importantly because they are examples of federated and decentralized states. "The Black Death and its Aftermath" deals not only with the plague but also (in the text) with public health measures, notably the founding of more large hospitals. Unfortunately, the single map deals only with the spread of plague 1347-1353 and omits the later plagues, which although less serious individually than the "Black Death", cumulatively deepened the depression. "France and England, 1300-1500" includes all of Britain, the Low Countries, and plots the location of "risings" during these two centuries. There is no map of the Hundred Years War as such, but aspects of it are covered on the map and in the text. "Italy and Sicily in the Middle Ages" refers to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries; the fifteenth century is covered by the Renaissance maps. While "Printing and the Communication of Knowledge" and "Principal Centres of Humanism and Science in the 14th and 15th Centuries" are standard, and in the latter case confined mainly to Italy and the Empire, "Music in the Middle Ages" gives a three-stage chronological progression of the development of centers of music, with terminal points 1100, 1300, and 1500; the commentary gives a useful sketch of the development of musical notation and performance.

Inevitably, the particular interests of reviewers color their reactions. The map of towns in early Middle Ages perhaps makes the towns more economic centers than is appropriate before 1000, although the editor admits the problem (p. 100). Unfortunately, separate topics on towns and urban life in the central Middle Ages, inexplicably for an historical atlas, do not contain maps. This is also reflected in the bibliography: there is reference to a major synthesis of urban development for the early Middle Ages, but not for the later Middle Ages, and there is correspondingly no late urban map. This unfortunately means omission of the considerable urbanization of Germany, southwestern France, and Iberia after 1000. "Commercial Expansion in the later Middle Ages", which becomes "The Commercial Revolution" on the map, is helpful in including both some major overland routes in addition to the sea lanes. More could have been done, however, without cluttering the map; the development of east- west land routes in the late Middle Ages is ignored in favor of links between Italy and the north. There is nothing on the settlement patterns established in the colonization movements, although those in Germany and Iberia are treated politically. Nor are field configurations, families of urban law or areas of Roman vis a vis Germanic or "customary" law considered. There is no separate map of Low Countries, although they are included on maps of city development, the Holy Roman Empire, and France and England. Part II opens with "Law and the Judicial Process," a brief but intelligent discussion without a map, producing which would certainly have tested someone's ingenuity but would have been extremely rewarding. "Civic Assemblies in Europe" is extremely weak, for it plots only the locations where the "main assemblies" were held with their dates, superimposed on a political map of the fifteenth century. The commentary notes local assemblies as well, but the map refers to national and regional meetings. This omits the precocious development of representative assemblies in the Low Countries and does not mention the frequency of assemblies in such centers as Paris and London (which are keyed by the uninformative "1267 etc." and "1254 etc."), Nuremberg and Frankfurt- am-Main, so important in the history of the German Reichstag, are not even on the map.

The intent of the editors to make this a true medieval "world" atlas is admirable. Most of my criticisms would doubtless have been fielded had their intention been to do "Medieval Europe". Still, given the likely readership, a strong case could be made for adding a few pages to provide more detail on "old" Europe.

It may be useful to compare this Atlas with comparable works. As a work of historical geography, this is much stronger than Colin Platt, The Atlas of Medieval Man (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1980), which has fewer and less detailed maps, although the commentary is richer. Angus Mackay with David Ditchburn, Atlas of Medieval Europe (London: Routledge, 1997), is confined to Europe and thus is more limited in scope. Its maps are black and white, and it prints only maps, not documents or illuminations, and thus it does not have the format advantages of this volume. On the other hand, it has far more maps than McKitterick's Atlas, and it addresses some of the topical deficiencies that I have noted above. Andrew Jotischky and Caroline Hull (eds.), Penguin Historical Atlas of the Medieval World (London: Penguin, 2005) is much briefer and lacks the coverage of Asia, although it does have the Middle East. It has local maps, including "Flanders and the Cloth Industry", "Castles", "The Medieval Countryside" (which includes field forms), and "German Settlement in Eastern Europe" that the McKitterick volume lacks. On the other hand, McKitterick is much stronger on the early Middle Ages and covers Asia, and some of the specific topics mentioned above as strong points of this volume are not found in the Penguin Atlas.