09.06.10, Brand and Cunningham, Foundations of Medieval Scholarship

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Elizabeth A. R. Brown

The Medieval Review baj9928.0906.010


Brand, Paul and Sean Cunningham (eds.). Foundations of Medieval Scholarship: Records Edited in Honour of David Crook. Borthwick Texts and Studies. Heslington, York: Borthwick Publications, University of York, 2008. Pp. 240. ISBN: 978-1-904497-24-0.

Reviewed by:
Elizabeth A. R. Brown

This collection of fifteen essays honors David Crook on the occasion of his retirement in May 2007 from The National Archives [TNA]--late the Public Record Office [PRO], after thirty-three years of exemplary service. One of the most interesting is the last article, by Crook's colleague Vanessa Carr, which describes Crook's career and accomplishments as successor to C.A.F. Meekings. Wondering at Crook's omniscience, noting his fascination with Robin Hood and all things genealogical, Carr also evokes Crook's skills as fund-raiser and his generous humanity, before giving a five-page bibliography of the publications of a man Nicholas Vincent has called "the leading archivist historian of his generation."

Crook can but be pleased with the fourteen articles by his friends and colleagues, six of them current or former associates at TNA.

Most of the articles in this impressive collection take as their starting point one or two individual documents, many of which are reproduced in excellent color images. Each of them is linked more or less closely to interests and activities of Crook himself. All are noteworthy in the care their authors take to set the documents in context, and to make these contexts fully comprehensible. Thus Scott Waugh links an escheator's inquest of 1370 to the question of how royal lordship was enforced at the end of the fourteenth century. Paul Brand demonstrates the importance of a heavily damaged document that contains "a working draft of the Statute of Acton Burnell" (12 October 1283); the picture of the badly stained act is accompanied by Brand's meticulous transcription of it. David Carpenter reports on "an unknown letter patent from January 1217," which he had the good fortune to acquire in 2005. Never enrolled, the act casts light not only on the history of Derbyshire and William de Ferrers but also on the relationship between oral and written transmission of royal commands. P.D.A. Harvey offers reflections on thirteenth-century maps and the possibility that the English royal Wardrobe and Privy Wardrobe possessed as many as three maps in the first part of the fourteenth century. Marc Morris focuses not only on a document (a return of potential knights in Wiltshire, E 198/3/3) but also on a huge round oak table in the Great Hall at Winchester, to argue for the creation of the table in 1285, a round table for the mass knighting Edward I held on 8 September, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin. Helen Watt uses another Exchequer document, a subsidy account of 1393 for South Wales, to argue that the taxation of Wales was not excessively burdensome and to consider the king's possible motivation in imposing the subsidies. Nick Barratt explores evidence in the pipe rolls to assess the effect of the loss of Normandy on the Exchequer, whose "durability and power" Barratt demonstrates.

W. M. Ormond employs TNA's on-line Catalogue of Ancient Petitions (SC8) (which he established with David Crook's assistance) to explore the requests for royal intervention and favor during the conflict of 1321-2 that pitted Edward II against Thomas of Lancaster and his supporters. Drawing as well on this valuable series, Jonathan Mackan edits a petition concerning Lord LeoWelles's attacks on Spalding and Pinchbeck in 1449-50, which illuminates the disordered state of the realm of the end of Henry VI's reign. Nicholas Vincent turns his attention to two wills that are preserved, one in the British Library and the other in the Bodleian. The wills are those of a father and his son, Godfrey and Henry of Helhoughton, recorded, respectively, in 1270 and 1274--an extraordinary pair of acts not because of their contents but because of the testators' relationship. The fact that the documents are not in TNA may explain the regrettable absence of photographs of the acts, although Vincent provides meticulous editions of both acts, as well as a useful family tree and map. Maureen Jurkowski offers another edition, this one of a plea casting light on the building of the tower of Morley church in Derbyshire, whose patrons, the Stathums, have been particularly dear to David Crook's heart. The tower, finished in 1404, was for good reason a monument to the family's status, as the photograph of the impressive structure shows. Sean Cunningham's article reveals the importance of David Crook's work for non-medievalists, focused as it is on the first Tudor, Henry VII. The problem on which he focuses shows how firmly history post-1500 is anchored in the history of the preceding centuries, as Henry VII continued his predecessors' struggle to subordinate the powerful to the crown--in this case the Stanley family and Lancaster. In a more general article, Aidan Lawes provides a short but comprehensive survey of the publication of the public records between 1800 and 2007, which will be useful not only to English scholars but also to those engaged in the comparative study of archival exploitation.

The editors, Paul Brand and Sean Cunningham, are to be congratulated not only on their own essays but also on the skill with which they have assembled, edited, and seen through the press this impressive collection of tributes to a dedicated guardian of Great Britain's public records.

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Elizabeth A. R. Brown