The First English Empire: Power and Identities in the British Isles 1093-1343

The First English Empire: Power and Identities in the British Isles 1093-1343

The First English Empire: Power and Identities in the British Isles 1093-1343

The First English Empire: Power and Identities in the British Isles 1093-1343

Synopsis

The future of the United Kingdom is an increasingly vexed question. This book traces the roots of the issue to the middle ages, when English power and control came to extend to the whole of the British Isles. By 1300 it looked as if Edward I was in control of virtually the whole of the BritishIsles. Ireland, Scotland, and Wales had, in different degrees, been subjugated to his authority; contemporaries were even comparing him with King Arthur. This was the culmination of a remarkable English advance into the outer zones of the British Isles in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Theadvance was not only a matter of military power, political control, and governmental and legal institutions; it also involved extensive colonization and the absorption of these outer zones into the economic and cultural orbit of an England-dominated world. What remained to be seen was how stable (especially in Scotland and Ireland) was this English 'empire'; how far the northern and western parts of the British Isles could be absorbed into an English-centred polity and society; and to what extent did the early and self-confident development of Englishidentity determine the relationships between England and the rest of the British Isles. The answers to those questions would be shaped by the past of the country that was England; the answers would also cast their shadow over the future of the British Isles for centuries to come.

Excerpt

When I was honoured by the invitation to deliver the Ford Lectures at the University of Oxford in Hilary term 1998, the electors kindly indicated that thereafter the series would bear the title of the James Ford Lectures in British, rather than English, history. (Not that the previous title had stood in the way of some very distinguished lectures on the histories of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales!) This change of title seemed an appropriate pretext for me to use the occasion to explore further some of the historiographical issues that have preoccupied me for some time—notably the challenges, opportunities, and insights to be gained from approaching the histories of Britain and Ireland in the Middle Ages comparatively and, in some degree, integrally. Such an approach, it should be emphasized, lays no claim to displace existing historiographical patterns, notably the deeply entrenched habit of writing the histories of the four countries of the British Isles within national frameworks; rather does it set out to complement and possibly enrich such traditions.

The chapters in this book represent substantially the lectures as they were delivered. the exception is Chapter 3, which was prepared as a lecture but not delivered, out of respect for the stamina and patience of my audience. in preparing the lectures for publication, I have occasionally augmented the argument and the detail. But the major departure is, of course, a substantial body of annotations. the footnotes are meant not only to try to validate and exemplify the arguments and claims of the text but, more important, to draw attention to the excellent corpus of primary and secondary literature which is now available for the comparative study of the medieval British Isles.

Public lectures impose severe constraints on the lecturer. Not only must he operate within the bounds of the allotted hour; but he must also sharpen the focus of his arguments and the vividness of his chosen examples if he is to retain the attention of his audience. He must also paint with a very broad brush and do so possibly in a cavalier fashion, especially if his canvas is as large and complex as the one I have selected. I acknowledge that these constraints have shaped, and possibly distorted, some of my arguments. the chapters of this book are thereby a series of exploratory and interpretative essays; they lay no claim to being a rounded and definitive history of the medieval British Isles (whatever that might be). I console myself with Proust's observation that what stand as 'Conclusions' for the author should serve as 'Incitements' to the . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.