John Howe

title.none: Bauduin, ed., Les fondations scandinaves (John Howe)

identifier.other: baj9928.0703.009 07.03.09

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: John Howe, Texas Tech University,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2007

identifier.citation: Bauduin, Pierre, ed. Les fondations scandinaves en Occident et les débuts du duché de Normandie: Colloque de Cerisy-la-Salle (25-29 septemnre 2002). Caen: Publications du CRAHM, 2005. Pp. iv, 276. 30 EUR (pb). ISBN: $40.002-902685-28-9 2-902685-28-9.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 07.03.09

Bauduin, Pierre, ed. Les fondations scandinaves en Occident et les débuts du duché de Normandie: Colloque de Cerisy-la-Salle (25-29 septemnre 2002). Caen: Publications du CRAHM, 2005. Pp. iv, 276. 30 EUR (pb). ISBN: $40.002-902685-28-9 2-902685-28-9.

Reviewed by:

John Howe
Texas Tech University

The seventeen papers published here seek to illuminate the birth of Normandy by comparing it to other Scandinavian settlements in northern France, the Low Countries, and the British Isles. Could this project work? The problem, which Pierre Bauduin admits in his short summary introduction (pp. 3-9), is that Normandy was a unique place: the most successful colony politically, a duchy whose citizens and their descendents would come to dominate northern France, England, Sicily and the principality of Antioch; the least distinctive culturally, a "Scandinavian" society that often seemed more Frankish than the Franks. Yet, despite this paradox, a comparative project at least has the potential to help clarify Norman distinctiveness.

These studies, published here in French, originated at the eleventh "Medieval Normandy" conference, held at Cerisy-la-Salle in September 2002. They are divided into three groups: 1) those concerning "contacts, exchanges, and alterities" examine the big picture of Scandinavian interaction with Western European cultures; 2) those grouped into "experiences in the West" survey Scandinavian colonial settlements outside of Normandy, and 3) those in "the beginnings of the duchy of Normandy" focus directly on the volume's central subject.

Scandinavian contacts differed widely. James Graham-Campbell briefly surveys archaeological traces of Scandinavians in the West and suggests that some settlement evidence, particularly from the Scottish isles, might have been produced not by dramatic military conquest but by slow infiltration (pp. 13-23), a reinterpretation that, if pushed to extremes, could make the Vikings the new Anglo-Saxons. Niels Lund attempts to interpret the "very ambiguous" sources concerning the year 845, when Ragnar the Viking called off his attack on Paris but went on to sack Hamburg, in a way suggesting a consistent policy by King Horik of Denmark (814-54), who allegedly would have punished Ragnar upon his return (pp. 25-36). Delphine Planavergne examines the stereotypical descriptions of ninth-century Scandinavian incursions into Northern France found in 58 hagiographical works, which prove to be far more concerned with the power of their heroes than with Viking ethnography (Rimbert's Vita Ansgari is the one partial exception here), but all of which do agree that the coming of the Vikings had grave consequences (pp. 37-52). Hélène Noizet claims that the canons of St. Martin of Tours actually benefited from the Viking invasions inasmuch Charles the Bald recompensed their losses by giving them properties in Burgundy that they held until the French Revolution (pp. 53-66). Stéphane Coviaux examines nine fragmented reports of baptisms of Viking chiefs, noting the relative frequency of preliminary hostage exchanges and other associated features (pp. 67-80).

The section on Viking experiences in the west outside of Normandy necessarily covers considerable territory. Régine Le Jan sees power in transition around the year 900 in a competitive Frankish world where elite groups constantly renegotiated consensus in new polities that had unstable ideals of kingship, a situation potentially offering opportunities to new groups, including Scandinavian bands (pp. 83-95). Stéphane LeBecq examines the adventures of Vikings in Frisia, who had little permanent impact there despite being close to Denmark: she suggests that this proximity was itself a problem, allowing emigrant communities and pretenders an easy return home whenever tempting opportunities arose there (pp. 97-112). Joëlle Quaghebeur surveys Norway's impact on Brittany in the ninth century, which she sees as a devastating disruption that, although it left some institutions intact, so effectively destroyed political and intellectual life that it forced a former kingdom to reconstitute itself as a duchy (pp. 113-31). Lesley Abrams examines Scandinavian foundations in England, which despite their ultimate political defeats had lasting influence on place names, language, art, and customs (pp. 133-44). Olivier Viron finds Scandinavian foundations in Ireland geographically, economically, and socially peripheral to the older Irish kingdoms, which would officially dominate them from the eleventh century onward; nevertheless, he sees the Viking bases as central to Irish development of commerce, currency, and cities (pp. 145-58).

The section devoted to Normandy itself, presumably the heart of the book, is perhaps the least coherent. Jacques Le Maho does a fine job laying out the evidence concerning Norman Vikings before Normandy, analyzing the little surviving information effectively, although not all readers will agree with his theory that late ninth-century rebuilding in Rouen was a Frankish defensive measure under King Odo (888-898), rather than an early Norman project (pp. 161-79). Pierre Bauduin looks at Norman chiefs and Frankish elites, correlating monarchical weakness with the development of systems of amicitia, that, along with marriage bonds and baptismal sponsorships, helped incorporate immigrant groups into Frankish institutions (pp. 181-94). Katherine S. B. Keats-Rohan analyzes the sparse surviving data for tenth-century Norman monasticism (two necrologies are appended) and concludes that this monasticism was purely Frankish, not Norman, a situation that changed during the reforms associated with William of Volpiano (d. 1031), whose more inclusive communities, perhaps not coincidentally, managed to secure vastly increased support from Norman elites (pp. 195-208). Anne Nissen-Jaubert surveys what we know about the material culture of Scandinavian settlements in Normandy and asks what more we might be able to discover (pp 209-23). Gillian Fellows-Jensen looks at differing Scandinavian place name patterns in Normandy and in the British Isles (pp. 225-39).; Åse Kari H. Wagner examines place names related to deforestation ending in "-tuit" (pp. 241-52); Élisabeth Ridel identifies words of Scandinavian origin in eleventh-century Norman Latin texts, basically words limited to charters (pp. 253-71).

Overall this is an impressive, well edited collection. The papers follow a logical order and generally avoid redundancies. Some of the area surveys could serve as state-of-the-art introductions to a difficult historiography. The four photographs and fourteen maps are clearly presented. But what one misses here is more direct engagement, more explicit comparison. The contributions raise big issues: how extensive was Viking destruction? Should the master narrative be Viking advance or Frankish implosion? What are the best diffusion models to explain the resulting cultural interaction? How significant were the differences between Viking groups? Were such differences present from the beginning or products of Scandinavian interaction with already divergent local cultures? Were defensive reactions to the Vikings central to the creation of northwestern European identities and institutions? Papers here touch on all of these questions, but often in conflicting ways: for example, the extent to which Vikings disrupted preexisting institutions tends to be maximized by Quaghebeur for Brittany and minimized by Noizet for neighboring Tours, with contributors offering assorted intermediate assessments for other areas. The cross-cultural comparisons promised in the introduction are found within some individual studies, but not across the volume itself. When it breaks off abruptly after the final technical vocabulary studies, readers may find themselves longing for any sort of summary conclusion. Nevertheless, this is a book which students of early Normandy will find valuable.