The Feudal Kingdom of England, 1042-1216

By Frank Barlow | Go to book overview

PREFACE

THE theme of this book is the feudal kingdom of England and the men who made it. I have tried to tell a story -- for to my mind history without a story is meaningless -- and to tell it in as much detail and depth as I can. The only continuous thread which the sources give to the historian of this period is the fortunes of the great men -- the bishops, the barons, and, above all, the kings -- and it is not stupid to accept in the main this contemporary scale of values, for, although history is in a sense made by every living creature, only a few men have the power, material or intellectual, to exert an appreciable influence on events.

Yet the history of a distant period becomes little more than a fairy tale unless the background, which the contemporary writer takes for granted, can be re-created. And it is this evocation of a past age which is so difficult. If the historian uses a technical vocabulary his world is closed except to the few, and the use of specialized terms divorces the story from the towns, churches, and fields which we know. But to avoid technicalities is no less dangerous, for modern equivalents are often cumbersome and usually misleading. My plan has been to interrupt the narrative occasionally with digressions of an analytical and explanatory character; and I am aware that this sort of compromise has its disadvantages too.

Medieval sums of money require, perhaps, a prefatory explanation. During the period covered by this volume the only coin in general circulation in western Europe was the silver penny of various and fluctuating standards (see below, pp. 24, 187). The shilling (12 pence), mark (160 pence), and pound (240 pence) were units of account, the value of which depended on the type of penny required, e.g. sterling or angevin, and also on the method of payment, by tale or by weight. Hence the amount of silver represented by any financial expression can usually be determined. But to convert that into a modern value is beyond the wit of man. Those interested in the problem may consult E. Victor Morgan, The Stady of Prices and the Value of Money (Historical Association, Helps for Students of History, No. 53), 1950.

The historian takes a risk when he dispenses with footnotes. He cannot qualify generalizations or support his individual views. Nor

-vii-

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The Feudal Kingdom of England, 1042-1216
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Introductory Note v
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • Maps and Charts xii
  • I - England in the Reign of Edward the Confessor 1
  • 2 - The Reign of Edward the Confessor 55
  • 3 - The Norman Conquest of England 77
  • 4 - The Anglo-Norman Kingdom 100
  • 5 England and Normandy, 1066-1100 137
  • 6 - The Zenith and the Nadir of Norman Rule, 1100-1154 171
  • 7 - Social Changes in England 235
  • 8 - The Re-Establishment of the Monarchy Under Henry II 283
  • 9 - The Angevin Empire 331
  • 10 - The Angevin Despotism 375
  • Epilogue 436
  • Note on Books 442
  • Index 445
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