Phyllis E. Pobst

title.none: Hoskin, Brooke, and Dobson, eds., Foundation of Medieval English History (Phyllis E. Pobst)

identifier.other: baj9928.0705.027 07.05.27

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Phyllis E. Pobst, Arkansas State University,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2007

identifier.citation: Hoskin, Phillipa, Christopher Brooke, and Barrie Dobson. The Foundation of Medieval English Ecclesiastical History: Studies Presented to David Smith. Studies in the History of Medieval Religion XXVII. Woodbridge, U.K.: Boydell Press, 2005. Pp. xi, 235. $90.00 (hb) ISBN: 1843831694, ISBN-13: 9781843831693 (hb). ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 07.05.27

Hoskin, Phillipa, Christopher Brooke, and Barrie Dobson. The Foundation of Medieval English Ecclesiastical History: Studies Presented to David Smith. Studies in the History of Medieval Religion XXVII. Woodbridge, U.K.: Boydell Press, 2005. Pp. xi, 235. $90.00 (hb) ISBN: 1843831694, ISBN-13: 9781843831693 (hb). ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

Phyllis E. Pobst
Arkansas State University

Festschriften can be somewhat unsatisfactory collections, held together by little more than the affection of proteges and colleagues for a great scholar: the greater the scholar, perhaps, the wider afield the papers may wander. This, however, is the sort of collection which justifies the whole genre, and should lead to its revival. The editors are well-known to historians of the English Middle Ages, and they have produced a volume which truly honors David Smith on the occasion of his sixtieth birthday.

Few scholars have contributed more to the study of English medieval documents than David Smith. His major publications (note the modifier) fit into five pages only by omitting decades of labor as general editor of some of the most important publishing series, and uncounted contributions to reference works of the first quality. In surveying his accomplishments, Christopher Brooke reaches for the highest praise: "an immaculate editor of texts," "enthusiastic and selfless" (5). Brooke and Christopher Webb, in the first two papers, detail a career which made mountains of medieval records accessible to researchers, through his own publications and through the direction he provided to the Borthwick Institute for more than 30 years, as well as the many fine scholars whom he trained there.

But the project of this volume goes beyond reminiscence: it is "to re-lay the infrastructure...of our knowledge of the medieval English church" (Brooke, 5), and the papers collected here address that project.

In "Why Forge Episcopal Acta? Preliminary Observations on the Forged Charters in the English Episcopal Acta Series," Julia Barrow identifies more than a hundred such forgeries from the EEA volumes complete at the time of her writing (omitting the acta of Rochester and Worcester, alas: the cathedral priories of both were "notorious" forgers). Using volumes 1-30, she analyzes the usefulness of forgeries to the supposed beneficiaries, most of them monastic houses founded shortly after the Conquest. Many, she finds, were created to be "confirmed in charters of inspeximus and exemplifications" (26). Barrow provides two appendices, listing and organizing these forged acta, which will certainly be consulted by historians for generations.

Nicholas Bennett, in "Pastors and Masters: the Beneficed Clergy of North-East Lincolnshire, 1290-1340," tackles the persistent image of parish clergy as poorly educated absentees. He rightly points out that literary sources such as Langland and Chaucer, and critics with axes to grind, like Wyclif, have been accepted rather uncritically by historians. Bennett refrains from saying that we should know better, but urges a prosopological approach as a way to balance the picture. His own initial survey of three deaneries in Lincoln diocese suggests that the situation was not so simple as "Parson Sloth" would have it.

"The Convent and the Community: Cause Papers as a Source for Monastic History" is Janet Burton's contribution, also suggesting rich opportunities for prosopography. David Smith's two volumes on the York consistory court cause papers have been used for studies of marriage, charity, and other aspects of society, but should also be mined for their evidence about religious houses and individuals. This less-obvious material throws light, for instance, on some women's monasteries (were they firmly Cistercian?), the self-reliance of nuns (should they do that?), and tithes (who should have them?). Some documents survive only because they were copied into the cause papers, she notes, where monks and nuns are found within the social networks of town and country.

Another aspect of ecclesiastical history also deserves more attention, according to Charles Fonge in "Patriarchy and Patrimony: Investing in the Medieval College." Using the cartulary of St Mary's College, Warwick, which he edited under the supervision of David Smith, Fonge presents a case study of the importance of colleges in the twelfth- fourteenth centuries, when they developed from bishops' households (patriarchy) to freestanding foundations (patrimony). Many were founded or converted by bishops to provide prebends for their familiars, as they competed with nobles, kings, and popes for patronage. A college could also help the bishop contend with his cathedral chapter, provide career opportunities for educated men, and build links to powerful nobles. Fonge argues well for the political relevance of these churches, many of them impressively endowed by their bishops.

Christopher Harper-Bill takes another look at episcopal acta in "'Above all these Charity': the Career of Walter Suffield, Bishop of Norwich, 1244-57." Suffield was regarded by many of his contemporaries as a saint, and even earned the respect of Matthew Paris, no great lover of bishops. Harper-Bill aims to expand on Paris's portrait, studying the bishop's concern for parochial ministry. Putting a competent priest in each parish appropriated to a religious house was a challenge which he met by ordaining vicarages with adequate endowments, and enforcing perpetual vicarages to protect the interests of parish and priest. As assessor and collector of taxes for the papacy he was often in a difficult position, and the delicate negotiations required to satisfy pope, king and prelates may have required a saint. Harper-Bill shows how the acta reveal his concern for good relations with Henry III, but also for the poor and religious communities, especially nuns. He concludes that the bishop was a "scrupulous and humane" pastor.

R. H. Helmholz met David Smith in 1967 as a fellow graduate student, and their work has often brought them together. In "The Law of Charity and the English Ecclesiastical Courts," Helmholz explores an area of interest to both: ecclesiastical law and practice. He sets aside the false image that charity was largely outside the law until the Tudor period. True, Corpus iuris canonici had no section on charitable giving, and did not claim that only church courts had competence, but principles found throughout the code were directly relevant, and church institutions were frequently the objects of charity. As a result, ecclesiastical courts played a large role in the development of English laws on charity. As Helmholz concludes, the seventeenth-century statute laws on charity stood on the foundation of medieval canon law principles and practice.

In "Continuing Service: the Episcopal Households of Thirteenth- Century Durham," Philippa Hoskin uses the EEA to investigate a medieval baronial household. Studies of the households of nobles have usually overlooked the lords spiritual, but their many records can help to fill out the picture of how a great household functioned. Hoskin notes the emergence of patterns when the acta are mined this way. A bishop's clerical familia was "dissolved by his death," resulting in a nearly complete turn-over (126), but lay officers with local knowledge, like the bishop's forester, tended to continue from one bishop to the next. Was there also a core of clerical bureaucrats who customarily remained? If so, Hoskin speculates, specialized local knowledge would probably have been the reason there, too. Bishops of Durham had a palatinate to govern, as she reminds us, and might have needed the institutional memory provided by "continuing service."

Brian Kemp's article, "The Acta of English Rural Deans in the later Twelfth and early Thirteenth Centuries," gives us an edition of 22 texts issued by rural deans from ca. 1155 to ca. 1220. While there were hundreds of deans, and they often appear in charters and deeds, little is known about how they carried out their jobs; the corpus of their acta is "pitifully small." Deans answered to archdeacons as well as to bishops; they worked closely with them to supervise both clergy and laity, and stood in for them in transitional events such as inductions. Their notes to their superiors must have been regarded as ephemeral, though, and the small collection Kemp has made is thus especially important. The rural dean was often "a local man with local landed interests" and possibly even a wife (143), Kemp notes. The documents he provides are edited in the EEA style and will be of enduring interest to historians.

The fourth register of Roger Martival (r. 1315-1330) is examined by F. Donald Logan in "The Court of Arches and the Bishop of Salisbury," and found to be "an unrivalled cache of records concerning the most important ecclesiastical court in medieval England" (157). This court of appeal for the province of Canterbury lost its medieval archive in the Great Fire in 1666, so what is known of its activities must be gleaned from documents found elsewhere, such as those in Martival's register. Logan takes the opportunity to explain much of the terminology of this process (which many readers will appreciate). Most of the documents registered were inhibitions or querele: an inhibition notified the bishop that an appeal had been accepted from his jurisdiction, and querele were complaints against actions of the bishop, in this case, complaints that his court had done nothing when it should have given justice. While Logan admits that historians must be careful, he makes the fair claim that these documents from the curia Cantuariensis show how the court worked, and "may be more widely representative and not peculiar only to this diocese" (172).

Alison K. McHardy finds medieval episcopal registers "a rich quarry for the political historian" ("Bishops' Registers and Political History: a Neglected Resource"). She points to the tendency to overlook ecclesiastical records in researching secular questions, as if the two could really be separated. She urges historians to examine bishops' registers, made so much more accessible by the work of David Smith, and promises them "rich and unexpected rewards" (173). Medieval bishops were often royal servants, and McHardy notes that there were three main aspects of a bishop's duties to the crown. First was the execution of royal writs, often found in registers. Second was the implementation of royal policies, especially in two areas: taxes voted in convocations; and prayers to be said for the kingdom. This latter may sound narrow, but is a mine of information on propaganda campaigns waged to rally the public to the king's side-- on the Scottish frontiers, or the fields of France, and for a crusade against the "Turkish menace" (179). Registers reveal the roles played by bishops as supporters, or as actors, in civil wars and the deposition of kings. The third main area of political information is national politics: such large issues as the troubles of Edward II and Richard III appear in these registers, and McHardy gives a number of juicy examples of what they might reveal to the patient researcher.

Finally, Jane Sayers provides an introduction to "The Vatican Archives, the Papal Registers and Great Britain and Ireland: the Foundations of Historical Research." She insists that no serious historian can avoid the Vatican Archives, which reveal not only institutional history but "a wealth of material on social subjects and ordinary people" (194). After a summary of the opening of the Secret Archives and the origin of the papal registers, she leads the reader through the Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers relating to Great Britain and Ireland (CPL), and the national schools that have produced similar works in other series. Sayers recommends the help of Leslie Macfarlane and Leonard Boyle for those who approach these sources for British or Irish information, praising Boyle as "the foremost palaeographer of his day" (204). She introduces us to the CD-ROM of the Registra Vaticana, which covers popes A.D. 876-1342, and ends with a valuable appendix of the registers of thirteenth-century popes.

The Festschrift concludes with the traditional bibliography, which is both overwhelming and understated. There is a good index of names, and it is ungrateful of the reader to wish there were also an index of subjects.