Britain and Ireland, 900-1300: Insular Responses to Medieval European Change

Britain and Ireland, 900-1300: Insular Responses to Medieval European Change

Britain and Ireland, 900-1300: Insular Responses to Medieval European Change

Britain and Ireland, 900-1300: Insular Responses to Medieval European Change

Synopsis

There is a growing interest in the history of relations among the English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish as the United Kingdom and Ireland begin to construct new political arrangements and to become more fully integrated into Europe. This book brings together the latest work on how these relations developed between 900 and 1300, a period crucial for the formation of national identities. Little has been published hitherto on this subject, and the book marks a major contribution to a topic of lasting interest.

Excerpt

… it is well to remember that the unity of our civilisation does not rest entirely on the secular culture and the material progress of the last four centuries. There are deeper traditions in Europe than these, and we must go back behind Humanism and behind the superficial triumphs of modern civilisation, if we wish to discover the fundamental social and spiritual forces that have gone to the making of Europe. (Christopher Dawson, The Making of Europe: An Introduction to the History of European Unity 400–1000 A. D. (London, 1932))

Asked to identify the fundamental forces which made Europe in the centuries between 900 and 1300 most historians would mention population expansion and urban growth; the dominance of French aristocratic culture and the chivalric code it spawned; the renewal of religious fervour which found expression in the rise of papal power, the spread of new religious orders, and the crusading movement; the appearance of new institutions such as universities and representative assemblies; and an increased sense of national identity among some of Europe's peoples. Britain and Ireland constitute a particularly interesting region in which to examine these developments, since here was to be found a remarkable variety of reactions to European change.

In mainland Europe the tenth century saw the end of the era of defeat at the hands of Slav, Magyar and Arab attackers from the east and south, but Britain and Ireland remained at the mercy of enemies from the north. the depredations of the pagan Vikings disrupted older patterns of communication within the British Isles, and between the British Isles and the mainland, but also served to strengthen the shared Christian identity of those who endured and survived. the commercial element in Viking involvement also resulted in the creation of new trading links in the region and encouraged its rise to unprecedented levels of economic prosperity in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Furthermore, the continued involvement of Christianized Scandinavian rulers in the Irish Sea zone to the end of the thirteenth century shaped the politics of the region in decisive ways. It is easy to overlook the . . .

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