The History of England From the Norman Conquest
George Burton Adams

Part 9 out of 9

is of great value. This is a chronicle of John's reign and the early
years of Henry III, from 1202 to 1226, probably written in the monastery
of Barnwell about the time the narrative closes, and original and
practically contemporary at least from 1212. From 1202 to 1208 the
entries are brief and annalistic, with occasionally a suggestive comment.
With 1209 the notices begin to be longer, and with 1212 they form a
detailed narrative. The writer has a better opinion of John, at least of
his ability, than other chroniclers of the time, does not attribute his
misfortunes to the king's faults, and has little sympathy with the cause
of the barons. He is accurate in his statements, clear in his narrative,
and shows a tendency to reflect on the causes and relations of the
leading facts.

Besides these, most important of the primary authorities, there are a
number of others of hardly less value. SIMEON OF DURHAM's Historia
Regum (T. Arnold, Rolls Series, 1882-85) becomes an independent
chronicle from 1119 to 1129 and is continued by JOHN OF HEXHAM (ed. with
Simeon of Durham) to 1154 in a narrative not contemporary, but in many
places original, while RICHARD OF HEXHAM (Chronicles of Stephen, etc.,
iii), perhaps John's predecessor as prior, wrote a contemporary history
covering the time from the death of Henry I to early in 1139. All these
are of especial value for the affairs of northern England. About the same
time Master GEOFFREY GAIMAR, the Trouvere, wrote a chronicle in French
verse which is mainly a translation from the Saxon chronicle and other
earlier writers (T.D. Hardy and C.T. Martin, Rolls Series, 1888-89). It
closes with the death of William Rufus, and is chiefly of interest as
giving a glimpse of the opinion held by laymen of the noble class about
that king. Valuable evidence regarding the Becket controversy is
collected in the seven volumes in the Rolls Series, entitled Materials
for the History of Thomas Becket (J.C. Robertson, 1875-85). They contain
nine contemporary lives of the archbishop and one later one, and three
volumes of letters of Becket and others. On the conquest of Ireland there
is an important French poem called the Song of Dermot and the Earl
(G.H. Orpen, 1892) that was written in the next century, but based on a
contemporary narrative; and GIRALDUS CAMBRENSIS (J.S. Brewer, J.F.
Dimock, and G.P. Warner, Rolls Series, 186191) gives a lively
contemporary account of the Conquest, and descriptions of Ireland as well
as of Wales. He also wrote later a book called De Principis
Instructione, an avowed attack on Henry II and his sons, against whom he
had the grievance of disappointed ambition. The book relates in passing
many incidents that fill out our knowledge of the period, and it
possesses some value from the very fact of its unfriendly criticism.
This, but not much more than this, is also true of RALPH NIGER's
contemporary chronicles of Henry II's reign, written in a spirit very
unfriendly to the king (R. Anstruther, Caxton Society, 1851). An account
of Richard's crusade is preserved in the Itinerarium Regis Ricardi (W.
Stubbs, Rolls Series, Chronicles of Richard I, 1864), which is no more
than a translation from a contemporary French poem. A biography of St.
Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln, who died in 1200, was written after his death by
his chaplain and contains many incidental references to public affairs--a
few of great value (J.F. Dimock, Rolls Series, 1864). Another biography,
written in French verse not quite contemporary, but based on information
from a companion of the subject, is the Histoire de Guillaume le
Marechal (P. Meyer, Soc. Hist. de France, 1891-1901). It follows the
life of William Marshal through the reigns of Henry II, Richard, and
John, and to his death in 1219. It relates many facts, gives much
information as to life and manners and suggestions of interpretation from
a layman's point of view. Foreign chronicles, of value on the foreign
policy of the English kings, are that of GEOFFREY, Prior of VIGEOIS (in
Bouquet's Recueil des Historiens de France), on nearly the whole of
Henry II's reign, the contemporary histories of Philip Augustus by
RIGORD, and GUILLAUME LE BRETON, and the Histoire des Ducs de Normandie
(all in the collections of the Soc. Hist. de France). The last is
original and contemporary on the reign of John. Collections of letters
like those of Lanfranc, and monastic annals like those of Burton,
Waverley, and Dunstable, aid materially in filling out our knowledge. A
great school of historical writing was rising into prominence as this
period closed, in the monastery of St. Albans. Its first great
historiographer, ROGER OF WENDOVER (H.O. COXE, Engl. Hist. Soc.,
1841-44), probably did not begin to write his chronicle until after the
death of John, but his account of that king's reign, written not long
after its close, is original and has the practical value of a
contemporary narrative.

Of secondary authorities of importance who have written on this period at
any length the list is unfortunately short.

First and foremost for every student of Norman and early Angevin history
is the work of Bishop STUBBS. With a more direct, personal interest in
the growth of institutions, still in his Constitutional History and in
his prefaces to the volumes he edited for the Master of the Rolls he
discussed the narrative history of the whole age and very fully the
reigns of Henry II and his two sons. The characteristic of Bishop
Stubbs's work, which makes it of especial value to the student of the
present generation, is the remarkable clearness with which he saw the
essential meaning of his material and its bearing on the problem under
discussion. While he generally neglected a wide range of material of
great value to the historian of institutions--the charters and legal
documents--and did not always formulate clearly in his mind the exact
problem to be solved, yet the keenness with which he detected in
imperfect material the real solution is often marvellous. Again and again
the later student finds but little more to do than to prove more fully
and from a wider range of material the intuitive conclusions of his

For the reigns of the Conqueror and of William II we have the benefit of
the minute studies of EDWARD A. FREEMAN in his History of the Norman
Conquest and his Reign of William Rufus. The faults of Mr. Freeman's
work are very serious, and they mar too greatly the results of long and
patient industry and much enthusiasm for his subject. The neglect of
unprinted material and of almost all that is strictly constitutional in
character, and the personal bias arising from his strongly held theory of
Teutonic influence in early English history, make every conclusion one to
be accepted with caution, but his long books on these reigns furnish a
vast store of fact and suggestion of the greatest importance to the
student. The Norman Conquest closes with a summary history to the death
of Stephen, which is of considerable value.

The second volume of Sir JAMES RAMSAY's Foundations of England and his
Angevin Empire together form a continuous history of the whole age from
1066 to 1216. These books are to be noticed for their careful inclusion of
details and their bringing all the sources together that bear on successive
facts, so as to furnish an almost complete index to the original

Miss KATE NORGATE has written two books which form a continuous history
from the accession of Stephen to the death of John--England under the
Angevin Kings and John Lackland. In the first book the influence of
John Richard Green is clearly traceable both in the style and in the
selection of facts for treatment. It contains many discussions of
difficult questions that must be taken into account in forming a final
opinion. The second book is a sober and careful study of John's career that
brings out some new points of detail, especially in his last years, but
gives little attention to constitutional changes.

Three scholars whose work does not bear immediately upon the political
history, or bears only upon portions of it, but who have yet contributed
greatly by their studies to our understanding of it, are Professor F.W.
Maitland's field is that of legal history, in which he has done as great
a work as that of Stubbs in constitutional history, and incidentally
has thrown much light on problems which Stubbs discusses. His intimate
knowledge and his scientific caution of statement give to any conclusion
that he puts in positive form an almost final authority. Of Dr. Liebermann
it is to be said that probably no living man has so complete a knowledge of
the material which the historian of this period must use, whether that be
the original material of the age itself or the scattered work of secondary
authorities of different ages and many languages. His own work has been
mainly devoted to the preparation of scientifically edited texts, mostly
of legal material, but also of extracts from a considerable range of
chronicles--work unrivalled in its thoroughness and in its approach to
finality. Scattered in the introductions to these texts is a mass of
information on points of all kinds, which no student of the times can
neglect; while an occasional formal article, like that on Anselm and
Archbishop Hugh of Lyons, awakens regret that they are so few. The work
of Mr. Round has nearly all appeared in short studies on isolated topics.
In Geoffrey de Mandeville he has written one book on the reign of
Stephen that approaches the character of narrative history. In his
Feudal England and Commune of London many articles on problems of
this age have been collected in a form convenient for reference. Mr.
Round's knowledge of the history of persons and families is unsurpassed;
he subjects the material he uses to a minuteness of analysis that is
unusual; and he has settled, so far as the evidence admits of it, some
important questions and a large number of minor problems, both of the
history of events and of institutions.

We owe to foreign scholars many studies of value on particular questions
of Norman and Angevin history, like M. CHARLES BEMONT's on the trial of
King John for the murder of Arthur, and a few long works of first
importance. Dr. H. BOeHMER's Kirche und Staat in England und der Normandie
im XI und XII Jahrhundert is of great interest on the conflict of Anselm
with Henry I and the consequences that flowed from it. O. ROeESSLER's
Kaiserin Mathilde is of particular value for the foreign policy of Henry
I and for the reign of Stephen, though inclined to attach too much weight
to what are really conjectures. M.A. LUCHAIRE's contribution to E.
Lavisse's Histoire de France is a very interesting piece of work,
dealing fully with the French side of English foreign relations, and of
especial value for the first three Angevin kings. The same subject is
receiving also minute and careful treatment in Dr. ALEXANDER CARTELLIERI's
Philip II Augustus, Koenig van Frankreich, the first volume of which
goes to the death of Henry II, while M. PETIT-DUTAILLIS's Etude sur la
Vie et la Regne de Louis VIII is useful for the last years of John.

It is impossible in a bibliography of this kind to speak of all the long
list of monographs and special studies, English and foreign, which alone
make possible the writing of a history of this age, and to which the
writer must acknowledge his obligations in general terms.


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