Families, Friends, and Allies: Boulogne and Politics in Northern France and England, C. 879-1160

Families, Friends, and Allies: Boulogne and Politics in Northern France and England, C. 879-1160

Families, Friends, and Allies: Boulogne and Politics in Northern France and England, C. 879-1160

Families, Friends, and Allies: Boulogne and Politics in Northern France and England, C. 879-1160

Synopsis

This study offers a new model of political development for northern France through an analysis of the interrelationships between the counts of Boulogne and their neighbors in Flanders, Picardy, Normandy, and England. It also illuminates the little studied relations between less powerful counts and their neighboring territorial princes. Organized chronologically from the late ninth through mid-twelfth century, each chapter provides a political narrative and an analysis of the use of kinship and alliance (formal and informal) to govern and conduct politics. The final chapter examines the formation of reputation and identity of the comital family of Boulogne. The book is part of the larger debate on feudalism, the rise of government institutions, kinship and identity.

Excerpt

Medieval political history has become a contentious battleground lately. Was there a feudal revolution or evolution? Was there feudalism in the early middle ages or just the local exercise of lordship? How much anarchy existed with the decline of Carolingian institutions and how effective were these institutions in the eighth and ninth centuries? Did the year 1000 witness a shift from violence as a tool of public order to one that was ‘personal, affective, but inhumane; militant, aggressive, but unconstructive’. Does the absence of formal governmental institutions necessarily connote anarchy? Should west Francia be the model by which all other medieval polities should be measured? And if so, which region of west Francia? My goal is to offer a new model of the development of medieval government from the later ninth century in northern France, which draws upon the insights developed by social historians and historians of what I will loosely call “the anthropological school”, as these historians draw upon anthropological models in order to discuss political and social constructions within early medieval society. My aim is to use the model to illuminate one of the methods used to conduct politics and govern in the period of the later ninth through mid-twelfth centuries.

The model is based upon an analysis of the interrelationships among counts, in particular the counts of Boulogne and the neighboring counts, rather than the more traditional method of focusing on the relations between the king and counts. The choice of Boulogne may seem surprising, but it offers several advantages for examining the development of medieval governance in northern France. First, Jan Dhondt used Flanders and the Pays-Bas as his case study for the development of territorial principalities and the devolution of royal power. Second, the established interpretation has been that the counts of Boulogne, St Pol and Guines were vassals of the Flemish counts, and thus, that the early development of feudalism can be seen

(Bisson 1994): 18.

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