Feudal Britain: The Completion of the Medieval Kingdoms, 1066-1314

Feudal Britain: The Completion of the Medieval Kingdoms, 1066-1314

Feudal Britain: The Completion of the Medieval Kingdoms, 1066-1314

Feudal Britain: The Completion of the Medieval Kingdoms, 1066-1314

Excerpt

No-one attempting a survey of British history from 1066 to 1314 can complain of any lack of expert guidance. The richness of recent original work on this period is indeed embarrassing. It is not only that articles on specialised topics, large-scale monographs, and good editions of original documents exist in abundance, and that in the main they are characterised by the highest standards of scholarship. The history of these centuries is also illuminated for the student by a number of outstandingly good general works, some of which, such as Pollock and Maitland History of English Law or, in our own time, Sir Frank Stenton Anglo-Saxon England and Sir Maurice Powicke King Henry III and the Lord Edward, have become classics of historical literature. Nevertheless, modern historical scholarship is so penetrating, and advances so rapidly on so wide a front, that even general surveys of the type of the Oxford History of England may be too congested with detail to make the best introduction to the serious study of our history. For example, in the latest Oxford volume to appear, The Thirteenth Century, Sir Maurice Powicke treats of ninety-one years of English history in 778 pages.

There may, therefore, be a place for another kind of general survey which, while based as closely as possible on the original sources together with the best from past research, and using a representative portion of the huge mass of current research, nevertheless attempts to cover a longer period in smaller compass and with greater emphasis on the most important themes. Feudal Britain is intended to be a survey of this sort. Its very considerable indebtedness both to specialised studies and to a number of general works will, I hope, be made clear both in the course of the text and in the footnotes. At the same time, the book stands as an independent essay on the history of Britain between the two decisive battles of Hastings and Bannockburn. At a number of points where the interpretation of the evidence is controversial, I have put forward what seems to me to be the historically preferable view even where the controversy has been between scholars of equal eminence and repute. Here and there, as in the case of Becket, disagreement runs too deep to be resolved, while elsewhere, as with the death of Arthur of Brittany, the essential facts cannot be ascertained.

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