12.03.04, Bourin/Martínez Sopena, eds., Anthroponymie et migrations

Main Article Content

Francisco Javier Pérez Rodríguez

The Medieval Review 12.03.04

Bourin, Monique and Pascual Martínez Sopena. Anthroponymie et migrations dans la chrétienté médiévale. Collection de la Casa de Velázquez. Madrid: Casa de Velázquez, 2010. Pp. xxvi, 406. ISBN: 978-84-96820-33-3.

Reviewed by:
Francisco Javier Pérez Rodríguez
Universidade de Vigo

There is a well-established link between anthroponymy and migration. Throughout the twentieth century, personal names have been used in many studies to verify, with greater or lesser certainty, the place from which their bearers came. Although the study of personal names originated before the 1980s, it was in that decade when this study was reinvigorated with new methods during the meetings held in Azay-le-Ferron. With the title of Genèse médiévale de l'anthroponymie moderne, these meetings were organized under the direction of Monique Bourin, one of the editors of this book. For his part, Pascual Martínez Sopena has been one of the authors who have applied these methodologies to studies of the Iberian Peninsula, thereby advancing research into medieval Hispanic anthroponymy, to which he has devoted numerous works.

Most of the articles in this compilation illustrate a standard methodology for anthroponymic studies, adopted by nearly all authors, although there are some modifications or different emphases relevant to each case. This methodology is usually applied to a large number of personal names, taken from different documents of different times to amass large databases, such as the COEL [Continental Origins of English Landholders (1066- 1166)], presented by Katharine S. B. Keats-Rohan. In the article by Keats-Rhoan on COEL, as in other similar articles, the detailed methods used for collecting and processing pertinent information are described.

Besides the studies relying upon more typical anthroponymic methods, there is one by Franois Jacquesson with specific characteristics suited to literary works. In Nora Berend's study of the Hungarian aristocracy, the author provides a very interesting analysis of lists of aristocrats that were written in the mid- thirteenth century and later included in two chronicles. Among the methodologies used in these studies, the statistical treatment employed by Pascal Chareille is particularly noteworthy in two of his co-authored papers, one with Pierre Darlu on the ninth-century Polyptyque of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, and the other with Denise Angers on several Norman rôles du monnéage of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

This compilation is organized into three parts according to canonical period divisions of the Middle Ages: early (ninth and tenth centuries), high (eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth centuries) and late (fourteenth and fifteenth centuries). Each of these three large sections is preceded by a brief explanatory introduction written respectively by Jean-Pierre Devroey (11-13), Pascual Martínez Sopena (169-175) and Patrice Beck and Pascal Chareille (267-274). Monique Bourin and Pascal Chareille provide an excellent general introduction to the collection (1-7), which closes with a brief but superb conclusion by Patrick Geary who assesses the contributions in the book. The wide geographical coverage offered by this compilation is of particular merit, since it includes areas considered "marginal" within the history of Western Christendom: the well-represented Iberian peninsula and, to a lesser extent, Hungary and the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem.

In spite of the common methodology which prevails throughout the volume and the central theme of migration, the essays are diverse and display different results, as shown in Patrick Geary's postface. Conclusions are much less solid, however, for the early middle ages than for the other periods, particularly in the two studies focused upon the domains of the Parisian monastery of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. In their research on the polyptyque of this monastery (41-73), Pascal Chareille and Pierre Darlu describe their statistical method in detail. While understandable, this makes for difficult reading (67-68, for example). Although these authors may obtain more solid results in the future than those reported here, the results presented from this sophisticated method are relatively disappointing: the authors continually repeat expressions such as: "a delicate interpretation," "result difficult to interpret" or "it is necessary to use the results wisely." These expressions are not restricted to the ninth century, since similar expressions are also found in the work of Chareille and Angers on Normandy in the fifteenth century (275-316), as for example: "the interpretation in terms of migration is difficult" (292). These authors point out the provisional nature of their results (312-316), although these are much more fruitful and illustrative than those obtained for the ninth century.

With less sophisticated methods, the rest of the contributed essays establish (more or less) solid conclusions that prove anthroponymy is a useful instrument for demonstrating migratory patterns. Nonetheless, the demonstration may not suffice for addressing all the phenomenological questions that arise. Juliette Dumasy's essay about Sévéraguès in the fifteenth century is particularly interesting and complete in its successful analysis of the differences between the town of Sévérac and the surrounding countryside. Other essays that deserve to be highlighted for their attractive topics are those of Carlos Reglero de la Fuente on the Arabic anthroponymy in the Kingdom of León in the ninth and tenth centuries, that of Iris Shagrir on names in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem and, finally, Katharine S.B. Keats-Rohan's essay on Norman England cited above. In the first two of these articles, we can see how conclusions on some topics may be drawn from anthroponymy more easily: Arabic names, for example, stand out in the anthroponymic corpus of the Kingdom of León, as do those of the Francos in the samples studied by Pascual Martínez Sopena.

In other studies, more subtle and difficult distinctions in sets of personal names force the authors to be more cautious, as in the cited articles by Chareille and Darlu, regardless of their particular method; the article by Lluis Tó, Monique Bourin and Pascal Chareille on Catalonia in the ninth and tenth centuries; or those by Jean-Pierre Devroey on the early medieval domain of Saint- Germain-des-Près, David Peterson on tenth-century Castile, and Enrique Guinot on the crown of Aragón in the thirteenth century. The increased volume of documents in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries supports more solid conclusions and gives greater visibility to patterns of migration over shorter distances, as illustrated in the articles by Denise Angers and Pascal Chareille, Juliette Dumasy, Carlos Laliena, and Isabel Franco.

Despite the differences in the essays and in their conclusions, there is no doubt that this is an excellent work of the high quality that is characteristic of the conferences and publications organized by the Casa de Velázquez. While methodological consistency is maintained, the variety of regions, approaches, and interpretations makes the reading on a topic as interesting as migration very attractive. The chronological range as well as the variety of types of migration studied, the competence of all the authors involved, the helpful introductions, the final review and the very quality of the edition itself, not only justify the publication of a work of this kind, but demonstrate the importance of anthroponymic studies to the knowledge of the Middle Ages.

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Author Biography

Francisco Javier Pérez Rodríguez

Universidade de Vigo