This is a most welcome volume for a number of reasons. For a start, it is the most nuanced and comprehensive study of the practice of intercession in the earlier Middle Ages, focusing on the ninth and tenth centuries. More to the point, perhaps, it constitutes the first (and to date only) sustained engagement with the diplomas of the Ottonian and Salian rulers available in English.
Recent historiography on the ascendance of colonial rule in India has shifted from a mode of investigating the contours of colonial power to looking at the fissures of imperial governance.
Six years after the publication of the first volume of the Handbook of Nineteenth-Century European Constitutional History (1), the long-awaited second has appeared. While the first ranged from around 1770 to 1815 over 1224 pages, its successor covers the time between the Congress of Vienna (1814/1815) and the Revolutions of 1848 using 1504 pages.
As medieval English kings go, William I has been well-served by his modern English biographers. D.C.
Rayne Allinson’s new book, A Monarchy in Letters: Royal Correspondence and English Diplomacy in the Reign of Elizabeth I, highlights some of the gaps missing in the historiography of the queen’s own involvement in foreign affairs. The author acknowledges that there is a curious void here; what about the queen’s own words?
Historians can only feel ambivalent about bureaucracy. ‘Admin’ tends to get in the way of those two core activities that define a university, research and teaching. Some of it might be necessary and benign: seminars require registers, after all.
In Joseph Heller’s 1979 novel Good As Gold, the hapless protagonist, college professor and would-be public intellectual Bruce Gold, writes a light-hearted magazine article entitled ‘Nothing Succeeds As Planned’. He sends a copy to his contact at the White House, the ineffable Ralph Newsome, who is delighted with it. ‘I can’t tell you how you’re boggling our minds’, Newsome tells Gold.
This dense, lengthy and – by the author’s own admission – ‘very difficult’ book (p. xi) tackles complex questions of power in one of the most contested and formative periods of Frankish history, between the death of Louis the Pious and the formal accession of the Capetians as kings of West Francia.
Historians have great cause to be grateful to the precocious bureaucrats of medieval England, whose records they have exploited to shed light on so many aspects of the past. They should be equally thankful for the generations of scholars who have produced printed calendars of such records since the foundation of the Record Commission in 1800.
Bill Kissane's third book on the origins of democracy and the state in modern Ireland offers a challenging vision to constitutionalists in Ireland, one which will no doubt spark much debate, criticism and serious reflection amongst Irish historians, political scientists and constitutional lawyers.