Academic journal article Medium Aevum

A Companion to the Anglo-Norman World

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

A Companion to the Anglo-Norman World

Article excerpt

A Companion to the Anglo-Norman World, ed. Christopher Harper-Bill and Elisabeth van Houts (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2003). xix + 298 pp.; 12 plates. ISBN 0-85115-673-8. £40.00.

Christopher Harper-Bill and Elisabeth van Houts's volume of articles on the 'Anglo-Norman World' is self-consciously intended as a survey of current scholarship across a range of fields, with an array of eminent contributors. It goes under a title which itself makes a particular claim, for the integrity of the 'world' of England and northern France during the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and the first indication that the production of a digestible summation of research might be a difficult task comes in the varying scope of the articles here presented, as synchronie, diachronic, and thematic comparisons and conflicts are all invited. Beginning with Ann Williams's article on 'England in the eleventh century', which is a valuable attempt to convey a sense of the political scene into which the Normans intruded in 1066, the progression through Cassandra Potts's 'Normandy 911-1144', Lesley Abrams's 'England, Normandy and Scandinavia', and Daniel Power's 'Angevin Normandy' offers a rather general picture of the political history of the dukedom throughout the period under investigation. This, and the fascinating if palpably separate article by Matthew Bennett on 'The Normans in the Mediterranean', leaves the latter half of the volume, which is composed of thematic articles on aspects of politics and culture, apparently focused specifically upon England from 1066; some contributors take to heart the notion that the Anglo-Norman era ends with Henry II's accession in 1154, and others do not.

The most readable articles are, predictably, those which do not so much summarize the state of current research as offer one, justifiably learned, interpretation. These include Harper-Bill's contribution on the Church, which is an article from 1992 with updated references, and Ian Short's essay on 'Language and literature', which is a useful account of the various writings of the period, and makes necessary claims for the precocity of insular culture, but which also represents as fact the still controversial opinion that there was one, unifying literary culture in England and France. …

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