The Medieval Review 10.06.34

Baxter, Stephen, Catherine E. Karkov, Janet L. Nelson, and David Pelteret, eds. Early Medieval Studies in Memory of Patrick Wormald . Studies in Early Medieval Britain. Aldershot, Hampshire: Ashgate, 2009. Pp. 602. $165.00 ISBN 978-0-7546-6331-7. .

Reviewed by:

Valerie Garver
Northern Illinois University
vgarver@niu.edu

This rich collection of thirty-three essays is a fitting tribute for the early medieval historian Patrick Wormald, perhaps best known for his The Making of English Law (1999), though he had broad expertise on Anglo-Saxon England, the Carolingian Empire, and their neighbors. Anyone not already familiar with his oeuvre will learn a great deal about it by reading this volume, for many of the contributors touch upon Wormald's works, ideas, and arguments. The first essays in the book grapple with Wormald's legacy as scholar, teacher, colleague, and as domestic partner. Sarah Foot's essay, "Patrick Wormald as Historian," emphasizes both his singularity of mind--Wormald was not one to follow the latest trend--and his ability to make wide-ranging connections and see broad patterns. The contributions to this volume reflect the varying yet related scholarly interests of Wormald, and the editors could have approached the organization of its diverse essays in any number of manners. They settled upon the following sections: "Studies: Celtic and Anglo-Saxon Foundations," "Gregory and Bede," "Carolingian Authority and Learning," "English Politics and Law (Ninth-Twelfth Centuries)," and "Church, Cult and Memory in England." As a group, the essays aptly recall Patrick Wormald's many contributions to early medieval studies. Many are also connected by their subjects, sources, and methodologies.

Quite a few of the essays discuss rulers. In an essay spurred by Wormald's statement that "an early Irish king was a priestly vegetable," T. M. Charles-Edwards explores Irish kingship, arguing that while it was deeply rooted in ancient traditions, it was also dynamic. He pays a debt here to Wormald's discussion of differing source types and transmissions as key to understanding the dissimilarities between Irish and Anglo-Saxon history. Barbara Yorke examines the idea and possible realities of extensive overlordship over the Anglo-Saxons, noting that the period when northern and southern Anglo-Saxon kingdoms had close relations, in particular when kings claimed overlordship across the Humber, was the same as that in which Bede was most interested--the seventh century. She therefore argues that the idea of the gens Anglorum, though enduring, did not reflect actual continuous widespread overlordship in Anglo-Saxon England. Turning to Carolingian lands, Thomas F. X. Noble argues that Pippin the Short, Charlemagne, and Louis the Pious responded similarly to major doctrinal controversies. Examining the image controversy, Adoptionism, and disagreements over the procession of the Holy Spirit, Noble points out that Carolingian rulers typically asked the papacy for permission to examine such disputes. Once the ruler and his close advisors reached a decision, however, the pope and the Carolingians sometimes had to agree to disagree. These rulers, Noble argues, "managed" controversies in order to have a say over Christian orthodoxy and to maintain stability. Two essays center upon the means Carolingian rulers had to enforce their decisions and directives. Henry Mayr-Harting examines the sanctions that Charlemagne and Alcuin believed Charlemagne could have employed in order to effect his will. Alcuin saw appropriate penalties in a religious light as other contemporary Carolingian sources did. Yet Alcuin counseled against violence in the conversion of conquered peoples such as the Saxons and Avars. While bloodshed was acceptable in conquest, Charlemagne should employ persuasion to bring new people into the Christian fold. Rosamond McKitterick examines capitularies as a means to communicate Charlemagne's will, especially to the missi, roving royal representatives who were to ensure that the king's directives were put into action. McKitterick, in contrast to much earlier scholarship, argues that the capitularies issued after Charlemagne's imperial coronation were not indicative of a new imperial program but rather grew from ideas and practices present in pre-800 capitularies. She believes that post-800 capitularies generally aimed to communicate to missi what they were to do at just the time Charlemagne began to send them out systematically to enforce the stipulations of capitularies.

Some essays focus upon manuscript evidence. Joanna Story explores the differing continuations and versions of Bede's Ecclesiastical History, making connections between the inclusions and exclusions of various manuscript versions and contemporary events. William Schipper examines the two manuscripts of Hrabanus Maurus' In honorem sanctae crucis definitively produced in Anglo-Saxon England. One dated to c. 930 was a close copy of the Carolingian original, preserving its layout. On the facing folio for each complex carmina figurata was an explanation for how to read it. The other mid-eleventh-century manuscript instead grouped all the carmina figurata together and placed their explanations in a subsequent section. Schipper demonstrates through examples how difficult it is to understand In honorem sanctae crucis fully without the original layout. This is the only version arranged in this confusing manner. Elaine Treharne examines two manuscripts that once comprised a single collection of texts produced for Leofric, bishop of Exeter (1046-72). Arguing that he had this text and many others produced early in his reign, Treharne contends that Leofric wanted Exeter to hold a rich set of manuscripts in order to raise the status of this rural and poor diocese. In so doing, Leofric carried out his pastoral duties.

A number of essays examine portions of texts or one or two sources in order to explore larger questions. Lisi Oliver compares the laws of Wihtred of Kent and the penitential of Theodore of Canterbury in order to explore the relationship between royal and ecclesiastical law in seventh-century Kent. Stuart Airlie makes explicit the royal nature of the capitulary collection compiled by Abbot Ansegis of St. Wandrille. Ansegis probably created this collection in part because of Louis the Pious' desire that church leaders collect and keep capitularies. By imbuing his collection with royal authority by, for example, crediting Roman law or the legislation of early church councils to Carolingian rulers, Ansegis produced a collection that emphasized and perpetuated Carolingian royal authority. Sarah Larratt Keefer examines Old English translations of liturgical adjurations for ordeals recorded in service-books. She notes that, while they suggest pre-codified practice, they mainly demonstrate the ways in which the Church and secular authorities ensured their authority over ordeal judgments and their involvement in administering justice. Nicholas P. Brooks provides a new edition and translation of the so-called "Fonthill Letter," a rare survival of a lay man's letter to King Edward the Elder. Brooks argues that the letter writer is the Ordlaf mentioned in the letter based on the record of an exchange of land by that Ordlaf in the Canterbury Old Minster Cartulary. Further he notes how the letter reflected the legal system in action, particularly the ability of local powerful men to escape penalties and benefit from legal outcomes. David A. E. Pelteret proposes that the author of the entries for the years 912-920 of the A version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle was Alfred the Great's youngest surviving child Æthelweard. While noting that his contention enters into the realm of conjecture, Pelteret offers some compelling evidence for his attribution including consistency of language and themes, broad geographic scope, and knowledge of military matters in these entries. The author's probable death in 922 further supports identification with Æthelweard. Simon Keynes offers a study of the Eynsham Charter of 1005, issued by King Æthelred the Unready to found the Abbey of Eynsham. In its original form, the charter would have been quite impressive, and Keynes outlines how it is a telling reflection of its period of Anglo-Saxon history. In his analysis of Bede's exegetical commentary on the Book of Samuel, Alan Thacker shows that Bede associated the Britons with the Book of Samuel for he saw them as a continuing threat to the Church and to the stability of Northumbria. Thacker traces Bede's interest in perfidia, classically understood as treachery but which by the seventh century also referred to faithlessness especially to the Church. Although noting that his conclusions are "highly speculative," Thacker makes a strong case that Bede was reflecting upon the faithlessness he saw in Northumbria and just beyond its borders during 816, the year he wrote this commentary. Scott DeGregorio argues that Bede must have had access to the Rule of St. Benedict when writing his commentary on the biblical books Ezra-Nehemiah. Various phrases throughout the text draw from Benedict's Rule, and many passages seem to rely heavily upon Benedictine ideas and models.

Many of the essays revisit contentions of earlier scholarship, but four in particular re-evaluate other historians' work. James Campbell confronts a number of the similarities and differences among the peoples of the British Isles, using Wormald's work as a jumping off point. By examining relevant court poetry, Anton Scharer confirms the assertion of Janet L. Nelson that Charlemagne's daughters took over the role of the queen following the death of Liutgard in June 800. Shashi Jayakumar offers a new interpretation of the anti-monastic reaction that occurred during the reign of Edward the Elder. Rather than arguing, as earlier scholars have, either that it was a violent movement against the reform monasticism favored by Edward's predecessor Edgar or that the violence against monasteries in Mercia resulted from a dispute over Edward's succession to Edgar, Jayakumar takes a middle ground. Noting that many constituencies had reason to be angry with reform monasteries and that the political situation during Edward's reign was highly unstable, he instead posits that the main reason for the violence against monasteries was opportunism on the part of many. John Hudson offers a critique of Patrick Wormald's The Making of English Law and his Selden Society lecture, "Lawyers and the State: the Varieties of Legal History." Hudson argues that Wormald, who often set himself in opposition to Maitland, did not pursue the same sort of history or focus upon the same subjects and sources as Maitland. These differences, Hudson contends, led the two scholars to date the greatest changes in English law to different centuries, Maitland to the twelfth and Wormald to the tenth and eleventh.

Several essays discuss material items through the lens of the written word. amonn " Carragin revisits the Archer and Visitation panels of the Ruthwell cross, arguing for their close relationship. From a liturgical standpoint the Archer panel underlined the importance of the Incarnation at the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth, then pregnant with John the Baptist, while also emphasizing the centrality of the Incarnation to the whole program of the Ruthwell Cross. John D. Niles focuses on a late Anglo-Saxon ordeal involving food. Niles writes that he considers his essay but a "footnote" to Sarah Larratt Keefer's study of the corsnæd, that is the ordeal of swallowing a piece of barley bread and cheese without choking. His dissension to Keefer's prior conclusions is that the barley and cheese were quite edible because they were common foodstuffs in eleventh- century England. Only priests could undergo this ordeal, and Niles, following Keefer, notes that a priest's worry over God's judgment could cause him significant anxiety over swallowing a morsel of barley bread and cheese at an altar, even if they were quite edible. Lynn Jones examines Queen Emma's donation of a Greek scrine and relics recorded in the Liber vitae of New Minster. Jones argues that the scrine was a Byzantine triptych reliquary filled with relics of many saints but with a preponderance from the continent. She therefore contends that this gift was part of Emma's re-invention of herself following Cnut's death and an assertion of her Norman birth. Employing both archeological and textual sources, John Blair undertakes a study of the Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman undead. He believes that the treatment of the undead--severing heads, piercing hearts, removal from original burial site, burial in bogs, burial face down, etc.--is reminiscent of the unclean burial of criminals in Anglo-Saxon England. Both groups would have been perceived to operate outside social norms and bonds and to lack faith.

A couple of essays focus upon the changes in England during the eleventh century. Stephen Baxter argues against Maitland's characterization of lordship by commendation as a weak bond. Baxter shows it was a strong one through an examination of legislative texts, five lawsuits, and Little Domesday Book, particularly the Suffolk Domesday. Far from being "short-sighted," Baxter argues, late Anglo- Saxon kings integrated lordship into the judicial system in order to create a system of strong courts, an argument that supports Patrick Wormald's contention that the major turning point in English law fell in the tenth and eleventh centuries. Francesca Tinti examines three cartularies from eleventh-century Worcester. Each cartulary employed a different strategy to remember the church's past and the ways in which it built up a large landed endowment. Tinti underlines the conscious choices made in constructing these cartularies, which provide a window into archival memory in England during the transition from Anglo-Saxon to Norman.

In her essay, Janet L. Nelson argues for breaking down the divisions between early and central medievalists, particularly in the Anglophone world, through an overview of three pairs: epic to romance; ritual to romance; and liturgy to law. She discusses the ways in which a perceived move from one half of each pair to the other has created and perpetuated a divide between the early and central Middle Ages in scholarship. She urges more medievalists to follow Patrick Wormald's lead in looking across the divides of periodization. At least two scholars offer such wide-ranging work in their contributions to this volume. David F. Johnson explores the reception of Gregory the Great's Dialogues both in the ninth-century England of Alfred's reforms and during the early thirteenth century, when the Tremulous Hand of Worcester made punctuation changes to some of that text's Old English passages. Johnson does so by focusing on divine justice, particularly cases in which God punished those in the world for their sins. Catherine E. Karkov picks up on the contention of Joanna Chamberlayne that Emma, at the time of her marriage to Cnut, was one of the earliest widowed queens to be portrayed as a virgin upon her remarriage. Karkov provides compelling evidence for that case, especially the close association of Emma with the Virgin Mary in the donation portrait in the New Minster Liber Vitae and the frontispiece of the Encomium Emmae reginae. Karkov notes that such portrayal connects Emma to a wide range of medieval women who reclaimed their virginity including Radegund, Queen Mathilda, wife of Henry I, Christine de Pisan, and Margery Kempe.

Like many edited collections, this one suffers a bit from its diversity, but what a rich array of studies it contains. Given the many connections one can find among these essays, the volume could have been more cohesive if more essays had referred to one another when appropriate. For example, Stephen Baxter mentions Nicholas Brooks' study of the Fonthill letter in his essay on late Anglo-Saxon lordship and justice (p. 408). Few other essays make such links. Admittedly, Baxter had the advantage of being one of the editors. Uniting such a large and diverse collection is difficult, and the degree to which this volume effectively highlights the substantial contributions of Patrick Wormald to early medieval studies is impressive. This is a collection mainly for an expert audience, as the summaries of the essays above may have already indicated. Many of the authors, some quite consciously, take for granted a knowledge not only of general early medieval history but also of specific historiographical debates, sources, and events. In the opening of her essay, Rosamond McKitterick for example states that "all readers of this volume" will be familiar with Wormald's work on continental law manuscripts (p. 253). Yet early and central medievalists will find much meaty reading in this collection. Quite a few of the contributors are at the top of their fields, and many of the essays are a pleasure to read. Errata are few and far between for such a large collection. In sum, Early Medieval Studies in Memory of Patrick Wormald demonstrates the creativity, originality, and importance of the early medieval world, while opening up many questions for further debate and study.