The Medieval Review 10.08.08

Aurell, Martin and Frdric Boutoulle. Les seigneuries dans l'espace Plantagent (c. 1150 - c.1250): Actes du colloque organis Bordeaux et Saint-million les 3 au 5 mai 2007 . Ausonius ditions, tudes 24. Bordeaux: Diffusion de Boccard, 2009. Pp. 471. $55 ISBN 978-2-35613-020-4. .

Reviewed by:

Amy Livingstone
Wittenberg University
alivingstone@wittenberg.edu

This collection of eighteen essays represents the proceedings of a colloquium held in Bordeaux and Saint-Émilion in May 2007, dedicated to examining the complexity and vitality of the Plantagenet realm between 1150 and 1250. In his introduction, Frédéric Boutoulle situates the essays within the contours of the current historiography of lordship and introduces the three central themes that the volume will address: the economics of lordship, the exercise of justice, and how lordship functioned on-the-ground within the Plantagenet polity. The volume is organized by region, starting in Ireland and England and then moving across the channel to Normandy and winding its way continuously south through Maine, Anjou, Poitou until reaching the southern most portion of the Plantagenet Empire in the Agenais and Southern Gascony.

Leading off the volume is David Crouch's essay, which questions the assumption that royal and seigneurial justice worked in apposition. In contrast to the hostility that scholars have assumed existed between them, Crouch shows how private and royal justice worked in unison. This is a thoughtful and thought-provoking piece. While Crouch presents a viable argument, one comes away wishing for more. Hopefully this essay will encourage others to delve more deeply into the relationship between royal and seigneurial justice. Marie Theresa Flanagan builds upon this theme of how justice functioned in the Plantagenet Empire in her examination of an early thirteenth-century conflict between William Marshal, lord of Leister, and Meiler fitz Henry, the royal justiciar, over the rights to justice. Flanagan shows the root cause for this dispute was not the old paradigm of an established lord (fitz Henry) versus a new arrival (Marshal) in Angevin Ireland, but rather the interference of an overly powerful King John. She suggests this dispute is in many ways a precursor to Magna Carta, but one is left to wonder if this assertion may be the result of reading back into the past what happened later in John's reign. The section on England and Ireland concludes with Kathleen Thompson's case study that compares the English and French holdings of the counts of Le Perche. Thompson deduces that for the counts of Le Perche their English lands were both wealthier and subject to more royal interference than their properties in France. Each of these essays is successful in providing additional complexity to understanding how lordship and justice functioned in Plantagenet England and Ireland.

Traveling across the channel to Normandy, this section includes an essay on each one of the three themes of the volume. Scholars have long looked to Normandy as crucial to the formation of feudal tenure. Mathieu Arnoux takes a different tack, however, by examining the economic foundations of the Norman seigneury. Specifically, Arnoux considers how lords exploited the land, particularly their control of mills. In doing so, Arnoux reminds us that as well as being warriors, lords also had to be entrepreneurs in order to develop their resources for optimal exploitation. Moving from economics to justice, Maïté Billoré's essay in many ways parallel's Crouch's earlier consideration of the relationship between seigneurial and royal justice. Yet the conclusions reached here are somewhat different from Crouch's, as Billoré sees these two modes of justice at odds with each other rather than working in tandem. The next essay transitions from the exercise of justice to the question of how lordship worked in Normandy. Rounding out the section, Daniel Power determines what he believes were the unique attributes of the Norman seigneury and then goes on to trace how shifts in Plantagenet power affected the power of Norman lords. This is a rich article, sometimes overly so as it tries to consider many aspects of Norman lordship. One of its strengths is that it examines "lords of the village" or those who had just recently become lords, as well as the established Norman lords.

Moving on to Maine and Anjou and in keeping with the volume's objective of reevaluating the judicial powers of lords, Richard A. Barton provides a reassessment of Jacques Boussard's thesis of the changing-nature and elevation of the seneschals' power throughout the Touraine in the twelfth century. Barton argues for a more complex read of the situation and suggests that the seneschal's court was less powerful and not as far-reaching as Boussard allowed. This is a solid piece of micro-history and persuasively challenges accepted notions about power and jurisdiction in the time of the Plantagenets. Claire Lamy adds an important dimension to the discussion of lordship in her contribution on ecclesiastical lordship, the only essay in the collection to focus solely on this topic. To understand how the monks of Chemillé, a priory of Marmoutier, constructed this monastic seigneury and defended their rights against local lay lords, she examines two acts from the early thirteenth century. In examining these two documents, Lamy argues that one of the keys to the success of the monks was their use of the written word starting in the thirteenth century to record and preserve their power. While an interesting point, the emphasis on the monks' employment of writing at times seems forced and not entirely in sync with the evidence. Like Lamy, Bruno Lemesle is interested in the documents that record interactions between monks and secular lords, specifically conventions and accords. In addition to determining what these twelfth-century documents had in common with those of the preceding century, he also explores what economic imperatives motivated the monks and laity. This is a fine essay and Lemesle's analysis of the conventions and accords adds much to our understanding of the seigneury, specifically the economic dynamics that the monks faced in the second half of the twelfth century. Daniel Pichot takes up the economic dimensions of lordship in the next essay where he contends that the village was "the heart of the seigneury's power" and provides an in depth analysis of the relationship between lord and village in western France. This is a valuable exploration of the ties among village, lord and parish. A particular strength being that it reminds us of the role that parish rights played in lordship. Transitioning from the village to the castle, Annie Renoux discusses the role of castles and fortified houses in lordship in Maine. No discussion of lordship would be complete without analysis of the space that lords occupied. The "new men" of the eleventh century used castles as a visual--and practical--expression of their newly achieved power. But as Renoux points out, châteaux were not the only structures used by the counts of Maine to solidify and extend their power. Fortified houses and other structures served a similar purpose. Because the textual record for such edifices is often lacking, Renoux uses archeological data to establish her main points: the centrality of military structures to lordship, the diversity of such structures, and how their use evolved over time.

The remainder of the volume is dedicated to the southernmost reaches of the Plantagenet realm. The three essays comprising the section on Poitou are perhaps some of the best individually, and collectively, in the volume. The success of this section is due in large part to the fact that all three essays focus on how lordship functioned in Poitou. Gaël Chenard begins by questioning the assumption that the Plantagenets abandoned Poitou when it came under Capetian control in 1224. Through analysis of a rich source base of documents generated by Adam Panetier, the seneschal of Poitiers under Alphonse of Poitiers, Chenard proves a continued Plantagenet interest in this region after the Capetians arrived on the scene. It was really only in 1255, over thirty years later, that Chenard contends Poitou was fully under Capetian control. Géraldine Damon addresses another facet of lordship in Poitou through examination of four seigneurial families and how they constructed their lordships. Different strategies were employed by different families to gain and extend seigneurial power. Some had a more focused approach to their seigneury while others took a more "patchwork" approach to assembling their lands. Complimented by excellent maps and genealogical charts, this essay highlights what rights these families commanded as lords and how diverse their approaches were to garnering political, judicial and economic power. Furthering the theme of complexity and diversity, Cédric Jeanneau argues that lordship in Bas-Poitou differed significantly from other regions. Unlike other areas of the Plantagenet world, Bas-Poitou was not dominated by elite dynasties, but the lordly families were powerful enough to cause problems for the counts and kings. This article also reinforces points made in earlier articles, thus providing cohesion to the volume. Like Pichot, Jeanneau recognizes that ecclesiastical rights were an inherent part of lordship. Control of mills and water rights were also part of the seigneury of Poitevin lords of this region, much as Arnoux asserts for lordship in Normandy.

Arriving at the last stop on the Plantagenet itinerary, the last four essays in the volume examine lordship in Gascony and the Agneais. Patrice Barnabé raises the important point about the role of the environment and resources in shaping the ban controlled by the lords of this region. Western Aquitaine was not a wealthy area and Barnabé hypothesizes this affected how ducal power was exercised here. It seems that the dukes were not much concerned with collecting revenue or exercising their lordship until the Plantagenets began to assert their power more forcefully on this region in the first half of the thirteenth century. Like this region, Benoît Cursente argues that the area around Béarn was also marginalized within the Plantagenet realm until the reign of Henry III. Cursente suggests that once Béarn became associated with the Plantagenets, the nature of lordship changed and a new class of lords emerged. For example "tenures in fief" began to appear, a byproduct of the closer association with the Plantagenets. To appreciate the impact of Plantagenet influence on the south, Sylvie Faravel turns to two seigneuries on the border with the Dordogne. Faravel examines what defined lordship in this area and once again demonstrates the diversity of the powers that lords could command. Once these lands were brought firmly into the Plantagenet sphere, the changes in lordship were profound as new castles were constructed and royal officers put in place. This essay also demonstrates how both the Plantagenets and Capetians exercised their interests in the region, thus questioning the paradigm that once the Capetians moved into the regions Plantagenets influence stopped. This essay is a fine example of how the history of two lordships can illuminate the broader trends of medieval history. Unfortunately the comprehensive genealogy provided for the essay is published in such a small print as to render it virtually indecipherable. This information would have been better served in a prosopographical register at the end of the piece.

The last essay in this volume provides an appropriate conclusion to the collection as a whole. Nicholas Vincent calls attention to the limitations that have shaped how historians have examined the Agenais in particular and l'espace Plantagenêt in general. Scholarship on this complex region has long been bifurcated between Anglophone and French scholars. According to Vincent, historians of southern France had been unwilling to "lift their gaze northwards" to examine sources in English for the region, while the English were resistant to venturing so far south. Coupled with a supposed dearth of primary sources and the result was that the Agenais was largely ignored for this period. But in this essay, Vincent demonstrates the importance of the Agenais to the Plantagenets, an area that had previously been written off as of negligible at best. He shows just how interested Henry II was in the south and how strategically crucial the city of Agen came to be. Indeed, Vincent argues that its key placement on the Garonne River made Agen a rival to Bordeaux in its significance to the Plantagenets. This essay encapsulates the heart of what this volume seeks to accomplish: Through careful examination of all parts of l'espace Plantagenêt , the chapters in this volume question what we think we know about Plantagenet power and offers new ideas about lordship in the area that comprised the Plantagenet realm. As Martin Aurell rightly points out in his conclusion to the volume, the history of the Plantagenets has been done a disservice by the competing national historiographical traditions. Vincent's article serves as a fitting finale to highlight how the scholars in this volume have overcome such limitations and have offered a new understanding of the complexities and continuities that was lordship in the lands of the Plantagenets.

For a collection of eighteen essays, this volume is remarkably coherent. The essays complement each other well and, when viewed as a whole, reveal important new insights into the economic realities of lordship, the exercise of justice and how lordship worked throughout these lands. Another important achievement of this collection is the collaboration of Anglophone and French scholars. As mentioned by Aurell in the conclusion, collaboration by French, English and American scholars working on this region is vital. It is clear that the original conference of 2007 facilitated such exchange, the fruits of which are published in this volume. These essays will be essential reading for scholars working specifically in il'espace Plantagenêt, but they will also be of interest to those working on lordship in general.