In the last twenty years or so there have been great transformations in the historiography of modern South Asia. It would not be too crude an exaggeration to say that no western historian of much intellectual ambition engaged with the subject from James Mill in the early nineteenth century until after the second world war, while Indian historians were little known outside the subcontinent.
For at least the first half of the twentieth century, Scottish history could be said to have stopped in 1707. The history of the Scottish nation was the history of Bruce, Wallace and the Douglases; of knights in armour, cross-border warfare and corrupt priests.
By official decree, Brazil celebrates its 500th anniversary in 2000: the modern history of the country dating from April, 1500, when a fleet commanded by Pedro Alvares Cabral anchored at Porto Seguro on the north-east coast of Bahia.
The arrival of this new synthesis provides an occasion for Elizabethan military historians to reflect how far this field has come in the past twenty years, as has the whole field of early modern military history.
Caroline M. Barron’s book on London traces the history England’s largest medieval city, including its governmental structure, relations with the crown, its economy and guilds and its physical environment.
In the 1990s medieval historians were very preoccupied with border studies. No sooner had the dust settled on the collapse of the Berlin Wall than medievalists were taking advantage of no frills air travel to jet off and discuss borders, frontiers and marches.
For medievalists, the long-awaited appearance of Gerald Harriss’s volume in the New Oxford History of England constitutes a major publishing event. In this superb study a leading academic historian, K. B. McFarlane’s successor at Magdalen, offers an authoritative summing-up of a period which saw medieval England transformed.
This book is the result of a bold and innovative research project funded between 1999 and 2002 by the then Arts and Humanities Research Board, with further funds provided subsequently by a number of scholarly institutions. The preface further acknowledges the support of a glittering array of scholars, not least Geoffrey Parker who read through the entire draft.
The Blackwell Companions to British History enjoy a reputation for quality of scholarship, clarity of text and range.
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.