Medieval The New Cambridge Medieval History. Vol. I: C. 500-c.700. Edited by Paul Fouracre. (New York: Cambridge University Press. 2005. Pp. xviii, 979. $180.00.)
With the publication of Volume I, the New Cambridge Medieval History is now complete (seven volumes in eight), a decade after publication began with Volume II in 1995. As the editor candidly points out in his preface, there were many delays along the way. Some chapters were submitted as early as 1990 (and had to be updated), while others, for various reasons, were produced more recently. The result is a volume that is a bit uneven, dated in some areas and up to the minute in others, but that overall can be judged a worthy beginning (and conclusion) for the series.
It is instructive to compare the organization of this volume with that of its nearest Cambridge counterparts: Volume XIV of the Cambridge Ancient History, which covers the imperial and post-imperial Mediterranean world between 425 and 600, and Volume II of the NCMH: C. 700-c. 900. The centrality of the Roman empire in CAH XIV and of "Carolingian Europe" in NCMH II gives those volumes a geographical and political unity that was not available to the planners of NCMH I. They instead organized their subject chronologically and regionally, with thematic chapters at the beginning and end. Following the editor's introduction and further introductory chapters on the later Roman empire, barbarian invasions, and sources for the period (chaps. 1-3), part I (chaps. 4-10) is devoted to the sixth century; it moves from the eastern empire to Italy, Spain, and Gaul, and from there to the Celtic and AngloSaxon kingdoms. Part II (chaps. 11-19) goes over the same regions in the seventh century, with the addition of a chapter on Muhammad and Islam and without a chapter that had been planned on Lombard Italy (see pp. …