Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Normans in Their Histories: Propaganda, Myth and Subversion

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Normans in Their Histories: Propaganda, Myth and Subversion

Article excerpt

Emily Albu, The Normans in their Histories: Propaganda, Myth and Subversion (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2001). xii + 260 pp. ISBN 0-85115-656-8. L50.00/$90.00.

The unfortunate subtitle to Emily Albu's book should not put off the reader from this interesting study of the image of the Normans in the eyes of their historians from the late tenth to the late twelfth centuries. Albu has done a good job in keeping all the disparate authors in her wide remit under control. It is impractical to present the historians of the Normans in purely chronological order: there arc different groups of authors, some copying from others, some ignoring others. A geographical division makes a great deal more sense in the context, and thus she begins with texts dealing with the Normans of Normandy itself - first Dudo, then the multi-layered Gesta Normannorun ducum - before turning to those in Italy such as Amatus' Historia Normannorum and William of Apulia's Gesta Robert Wiscardi, then those involved in the First Crusade with the Gesta Francorum, before returning to Orderic Vitalis, who has a chapter to himself. Albu points out that all Norman historians have an at best ambiguous attitude towards their subject matter. The Normans are Northmen, savages at heart, violent by nature.

It is the figure of the wolf that provides Albu with her leitmotif. The Normans are wolves because they are savage, wolves because they are cunning; sometimes wolves because they - or their victims - howl; and howling is taken as a shorthand for wolfish nature, although slightly confusingly ululatus or its variants are often translated as 'scream' or 'shriek' rather than 'howl' (pp. …

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