Plantagenet England, 1225-1360

Plantagenet England, 1225-1360

Plantagenet England, 1225-1360

Plantagenet England, 1225-1360

Synopsis

In this thorough and illuminating work, Michael Prestwich provides a comprehensive study of Plantagenet England, a dramatic and turbulent period which saw many changes. In politics it saw Simon de Montfort's challenge to the crown in Henry II's reign and it witnessed the deposition of Edward I. In contrast, it also saw the highly successful rules of Edward I and his grandson, Edward III. Political institutions were transformed with the development of parliament and war was a dominant theme: Wales was conquered and the Scottish Wars of Independence started in Edward I's reign, and under Edward III there were triumphs at Crecy and Poitiers. Outside of politics, English society was developing a structure, from the great magnates at the top to the peasantry at the bottom. Economic changes were also significant, from the expansionary period of the thirteenth century to years of difficulty in the fourteenth century, culminating in the greatest demographic disaster of historical times, the Black Death. In this volume in the New Oxford History of England Michael Prestwich brings this fascinating century to life.

Excerpt

The first volume of Sir George Clark's Oxford History of England was published in 1934. Undertaking the General Editorship of a New Oxford History of England forty-five years later it was hard not to feel overshadowed by its powerful influence and well-deserved status. Some of Clark's volumes (his own among them) were brilliant individual achievements, hard to rival and impossible to match. Of course, he and his readers shared a broad sense of the purpose and direction of such books. His successor can no longer be sure of doing that. The building-blocks of the story, its reasonable and meaningful demarcations and divisions, the continuities and discontinuities, the priorities of different varieties of history, the place of narrative—all these things are now much harder to agree upon. We now know much more about many things, and think about what we know in different ways. It is not surprising that historians now sometimes seem unsure about the audience to which their scholarship and writing are addressed.

In the end, authors should be left to write their own books. None the less, the New Oxford History of England is intended to be more than a collection of discrete or idiosyncratic histories in chronological order. Its aim is to give an account of the development of our country in time. It is hard to treat that development as just the history which unfolds within the precise boundaries of England, and a mistake to suggest that this implies a neglect of the histories of the Scots, Irish, and Welsh. Yet the institutional core of the story which runs from Anglo-Saxon times to our own is the story of a state-structure built round the English monarchy and its effective successor, the Crown in Parliament, and that provides the only continuous articulation of the history of peoples we today call British. It follows that there must be uneven and sometimes discontinuous treatment of much of the history of those peoples. The state story remains, nevertheless, an intelligible thread and to me appears still to justify both the title of this series and that of its predecessor.

If the attention given to the other kingdoms and the principality of Wales must reflect in this series their changing relationship to that central theme, this is not only way in which the emphasis of individual volumes will be different. Each author has been asked to bring forward what he or she sees as the most important topics explaining the history under study, taking account of the present state of historical knowledge, drawing attention to areas of dispute and to matters on which final judgement is at present difficult (or, perhaps, impossible) and not merely recapitulating what has recently been . . .

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