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In an excellent monograph, Robert Stein investigates the background and the unification of one of Later Medieval Europe’s greatest polities, The Burgundian Netherlands. This book, published in the Oxford Studies in Medieval European History is a revised translation of its Dutch version De hertog en zijn Staten in 2014.
The bishops in 13th-century England have often received individual historiographical attention as key figures; the likes of Stephen Langton and Peter des Roches as major political actors, or Robert Grosseteste and John Pecham as intellectuals and ecclesiastical administrators.
Empires throughout world history have more often than not seen themselves as part of some cosmic grand narrative, set on earth to enact the will of the god or gods, spiritual or secular, they claim to serve. The Carolingian Empire was no exception.
This is an important and timely book. Engaging intelligently with a range of sources and historiographical traditions, Simon MacLean tells the story of tenth-century queenship through the prism of the Ottonian royal family. The Ottonians ruled East Francia (roughly speaking, Germany) from 919 to 1024, and from 961 northern Italy too.
It is the title which gives away a great deal about this very fine book, and should alert us to Tom Lambert’s ambition for this project, which has grown out of a University of Durham PhD thesis. ‘Law’ positions it as a work of legal history, but it is the component of ‘order’ which offers the second and bolder half of Lambert’s argument.
Before beginning this review, it is important to frame the commentary that follows with two caveats; first, that I (or we as academics), am not the intended audience of this book and secondly, that although I have some criticisms of this work which I will discuss further below, I did genuinely enjoy reading this.
Carlos Eire’s Reformations aims to provide a readership of ‘beginners and nonspecialists’ (p. xii) with an introduction to European history between 1450 and 1650. Eire narrows down this immense task by concentrating his narrative on the history of religion.
When it comes to Scotland, English historians are often still guilty of presuming that, before the Wars of Independence at least, the government of their northerly neighbour was unsophisticated and in desperate need of the help of English institutions in becoming an effective state. This sort of speculative thought is of course one of the more myopic pillars of English exceptionalism.
This book focuses on the records of the Privy Wardrobe, a department of state that was responsible for supplying the king with arms and armour in the Middle Ages. The accounts of the keepers of the Privy Wardrobe survive from the 1320s to the early 15th century and contain a wealth of information about arms, armour and other items in their possession.
Why would a hardened band of foreign jihādi warriors agree to work for a self-proclaimed leader of the Christian world – especially one militantly opposed to Islam, who kept his own Muslim citizens under close surveillance? And why would such a ruler choose to keep that particular type of professional killer in his personal employ?