Lorraine Attreed

title.none: Prestwich, The Place of War (Lorraine Attreed)

identifier.other: baj9928.0602.002 06.02.02

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Lorraine Attreed, Holy Cross College,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2006

identifier.citation: Prestwich, J.O. Michael Prestwich, ed. The Place of War in English History 1066-1214. Series: Warfare in History, vol. 19. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2004. Pp. xxiii, 138. $75.00 1-84383-098-1. ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 06.02.02

Prestwich, J.O. Michael Prestwich, ed. The Place of War in English History 1066-1214. Series: Warfare in History, vol. 19. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2004. Pp. xxiii, 138. $75.00 1-84383-098-1. ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

Lorraine Attreed
Holy Cross College

The towering influence of John O. Prestwich (JOP) on Anglo- Norman history is out of all proportion to the small number of works he published in the course of a long career. Here was a historian who preferred to teach his ideas rather than publish them, but his better-published students, such as R. Allen Brown, J. C. Holt, Judith Green, and David Carpenter, have given his concepts and methodologies fuller life. Presented here, edited and in some ways reconstructed by his historian son, are his six Ford Lectures given in 1983, in addition to extended discussions taking the form of two appendices. The lectures summarize JOP's thinking about the nature of war and society in the Anglo-Norman period, stretching from the Conquest to the battle of Bouvines. They are helpfully preceded by a biographical essay by Michael Prestwich, which provides a glimpse of a perfectionist scholar deeply read in the chronicles and annals of the period and committed to the rigorous pursuit of the truth as told by such sources. The entire collection, but particularly the biography, depicts the kind of scholar hardly seen and rarely lauded these days, one who read with a critical eye but who was unaffected by deconstructionist doubts about writers' veracity. The word "discourse" is absent from these pages, not least because JOP never descended to jargon in any form. Written with wit and passion, the lectures are models of clarity in both style and methodology.

The first lecture, entitled here "The Problem of Interpretation," sets the scene for the remaining five. JOP took for his topic "how armed forces were raised, maintained, supplied, disciplined and transported," and the ends for which they were used, in "war and diplomacy, propaganda and morale, military intelligence and economic warfare" (1). As far as permitted in these brief lectures, he ranged beyond England to the frontiers of the Anglo-Norman world in Anjou, Flanders, Wales, with occasional glances at Norman presence in the Mediterranean and Near East. JOP's concept of military history was not one focused on battlefields and troop movements, but one that measured its searing effect on all of society, from the reading of Domesday Book entries to the movements of episcopal sees to towns. Echoing Stenton, with a phrase now transferred to Reconquest Iberia but pertinent for all of Europe's aggressive expansionist tendencies of the Central Middle Ages, JOP promises the wide-reaching study of a society organized for war.

The second lecture, "The Conduct of War," explores the contradictory methodology of warfare. William the Conqueror and his offspring were capable of total warfare, the preferred method being "to strike fear into the population by frequent and prolonged raids, to destroy vineyards, crops and villages, in short to afflict the population with a host of hardships" (16). Yet opportunities for total warfare were limited, with very few pitched battles taking place in this period. JOP turns from horrifying his audience with tales of burned towns and churches, to introducing the diplomatic and economic arguments that give his work its depth and richness. He reminds us, with numerous citations from the chronicles, of these kings' concern for legal claims and moral justification. Warfare was dangerous and expensive, and did not tend to endear rulers to their present or future subjects. Anglo-Norman kings recognized that the object of war was not total victory won on battlefields, but the assertion of rights, by whatever combination of means the process required.

The lecture "Sea Power" focuses the argument more narrowly with an examination of three major campaigns contingent upon naval resources. JOP's interest in intelligence gathering, derived from his personal contribution to World War Two, adds a unique component to his study of William the Conqueror's 1068 siege of the city of Exeter. William's decision to spend time on this siege when other more serious threats loomed is directly connected to the naval forces raised from Ireland by Harold's sons, and the ways in which the king was kept informed of their movements. The second campaign, the capture of Lisbon in 1147, witnessed an unusually democratic form of organization deeply influenced by corporate urban communities. Finally, the story of Richard's conquest of Cyprus in 1191 allows JOP an all-too- brief opportunity to discuss naval resources during the Crusades.

In the lecture "War and Government," JOP uses the discussion of administrative principles to illuminate the weaknesses of some proposed models, "remembering that no simple model has ever been fully embodied in historical reality" (41). This is in fact a prelude to a fuller discussion of the uselessness of the concept of feudalism, a study constituting Appendix One. JOP rejects the model that proposes a weak feudal king unable to act without the consent of his chief men (Vinogradoff and Stenton are particularly targeted here). He argues that Anglo- Norman government was always more sophisticated and centralized than that, and he cites the example of Hubert Walter to illustrate orderly governing principles in response to the demands of war. War minister, archbishop of Canterbury, chief justiciar, papal legate, and chancellor under John, Walter helped to organize the government on efficient businesslike lines. He preserved and extended royal rights, surveyed the realm's assets, expanded royal justice, and actively advocated peace when the expense of war was not in the king's best interest. While few would dispute that such behavior was the natural result of Henry II's achievements, JOP continues to assert that backdating these policies is possible. He turns to an examination of Domesday Book, the chief source for his opponents' arguments for a post-1066 feudal kingship. Whatever its ultimate destiny, he observes, in form and organization it resembles the financial surveys undertaken by Walter. Its official title, descriptio totius Anglie employs a term used since Merovingian times to connote assessment and enrollment of public taxation. Its organization, by tenants- in-chief, was intended not to record feudal obligations but to identify those in society best able to provide the king with money (either out of their own purses or those of their tenants). Following Maitland, JOP asserts Domesday Book was the king's geld book, laying the foundations for the Angevin achievements of the following generations. The natural corollary to this study would have been a look at the Pipe Roll of 1130, but the nature of the lecture series made that impossible, to our loss.

Use of money throughout society is the topic of the fifth lecture, "War and the Economy." JOP realizes there is little new about observing the spread of wealth and sophisticated financial techniques during the twelfth century. What he wishes to propose is the abolition of any concept of a "natural" economy based on land, devoid of cash or commerce, in the Conqueror's time. Not only does he remind us of William's uses of paid troops throughout his career, but he notes a trickle-down effect to the magnates of society, whose own accounting practices on their manors benefited from the lessons taught by the royal administration.

In "Some Conclusions," JOP briefly examines Magna Carta's clauses on consensual taxation, but he is more interested in denying that the period in question witnessed a transformation from a feudal kingdom to a bureaucratic one. The sixth lecture segues naturally into Appendix One, his critique of feudalism. Anticipating some of the more recent vociferous denials of its very existence, JOP demolishes even the conciliatory models that emphasize transition and evolution rather than rigid categories. Taking Stenton as a particular target and denying that there was either a first or a second century of feudalism, he prefers that we recognize the maturity and complexity of medieval motives: "Men could be mobilized for war by a feudal summons, by the offer of pay, by a general levy, by simple coercion, and by a promised remission of sins," (97), and these were not mutually exclusive categories. He recognizes that the concept of feudalism has force because it offers a pattern to impose order and meaning upon a period deficient in sources. He acknowledges that certain pieces of evidence, such as the arrangement of data in Domesday Book, and the vocabulary of certain charters and writs, provide compelling arguments for its existence. But he reminds us that a closer reading of the great proponents of feudalism finds them acknowledging the paucity of their evidence, and few gave closer readings of the evidence than JOP. He once more argues for the value of the chroniclers, men who imbued their texts with the wisdom of having lived in the societies they described and conveying a context unable to be had from charters and archival records.

Appendix Two, "The Composition of Military Forces 1066-1135," expands on JOP's dislike of the concept of feudalism and reviews the use of cash in military recruitment. Except for some perceptive comments on the changing psychology of warfare as initiated by the Church, there is little new in this section.

By far the most interesting sections of this collection are the "Notes on further reading" which end each lecture and appendix. All too briefly, editor Michael Prestwich discusses how the ideas of each chapter have held up over time, which historians have adopted them, which ones have disputed them and how, and which titles should be consulted for up-to-date considerations of the topics. JOP's suspicion of the validity of feudalism probably strikes readers as the most modern and relevant of his ideas, considering the contributions of Elizabeth Brown and Susan Reynolds. The most work has been done on the financing of war and the nature of Domesday Book; the least on sea power and military intelligence. These reading lists not only guide us to further titles, but also encourage us to discover JOP's lesser known contributions, such as his articles on Richard I, Ranulf Flambard, or King Aethelhere.

So what is the value of recasting and reissuing JOP's work, given that even his son admits that "there was no Prestwich school of history" (p. xvii) formulated by his influence? These are more than just period pieces of administrative and military history. The study of power, coercion, and consensus is worth undertaking in any age, particularly when its human element, how it affects our daily lives, is the central component. The appetite for military history is never quelled amongst students, even when they do not live, as they do now, in a time of war. In reviewing the arguments of eminent medieval historians of the early twentieth century, JOP displays more than professional grumping and pedantry. He reminds us of the ongoing search for truth, for understanding a distant age characterized by familiar challenges. We may read his cherished medieval chroniclers differently now, with a more skeptical eye and with less trust in their evidence, but he still has much to teach us about meticulous scholarship that strives to understand more than events and actions, but embraces the full experience of the medieval world.