London, Boydell & Brewer, 2019, ISBN: 9781783274697; 512pp.; Price: £60.00
University of Nottingham
Date accessed: 27 February, 2024
It has now been over half a century since a generation of historians were inspired to study the workings of local society in late medieval England by the teaching and work of K.B. McFarlane, who died in 1966. The 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s saw the production of numerous doctoral theses and monographs which explored the dynamics of local politics and local society in a particular county or a particular region. These studies were immensely valuable for all that they revealed about the patterns of life in the localities of medieval England, how regionalism could cut across these patterns, and how the dynamics of local political life changed over time. As with any historiographical trend, however, this wave of county studies was not without its problems. These were highlighted in 1994 in an influential article by Christine Carpenter, who demolished the idea of cosy ‘county communities’ of self-contained gentry networks which had characterised some earlier writing.(1) It appears, however, that the county study is coming back into fashion in much-improved form.(2) Dr Sam J. Drake’s Cornwall, Connectivity and Identity in the Fourteenth Century is a most notable contribution to this new wave of regional studies. In this book, developed from his 2017 PhD thesis, Drake offers a wide-ranging and richly researched portrait of life in fourteenth-century Cornwall which takes ‘connectivity’ as its theme. This allows Drake to make a scholarly contribution of great value not only for those primarily interested in Cornish history but also for those who work on the more general social and political history of England in the late middle ages: put simply, this is a book that will need to be added to a great many reading lists. At first sight, some will be daunted by the thought of a 500-odd page book on the history of one county. It should, then, be said at the outset that the book contains 317 pages of text, followed by a lengthy series of appendices filling pages 318-430. Furthermore, and more importantly, Drake has managed to forge the mountain of research underpinning his book into a highly readable and coherent whole. The book’s blurb promises ‘a cast of characters ranging from vicious pirates and gentlemen-criminals through to the Black Prince’. The body of the text fulfils the promise of liveliness.
Cornwall was not, of course, that mythical construct the ‘typical’ English county. As Drake makes clear in the opening section, the history of medieval Cornwall cannot be divorced from more recent debates about the county’s ‘exceptional’ nature, which in its most extreme form leads to the argument that Cornwall should be separated from England altogether. It is very much the nature and extent of the ties binding Cornwall and its inhabitants with each other and with the wider realm that forms the subject of this book. After noting the historiographical contradictions at the heart of our understanding of Cornwall’s history, Drake sets out the dynamic he wishes to pursue: ‘The main aim of this book, therefore, is to present an account of how fourteenth-century Cornwall cohered with the rest of the kingdom while remaining a quite remarkable place’ (p. xix). Drake’s Cornwall was both strongly connected to England and a very distinctive place with its own traditions, language, and idiosyncrasies. The rest of the book illuminates how these things can both be true at once.
Part I (chapters 1-4) provides a thematic overview of Cornwall and its inhabitants. An initial scene-setting exercise offers an account of Cornwall’s transport links, economic structure, and landscape. Historians of the English nobility and gentry have not always been comfortable bridging the shifting gap between land and sea, so it is particularly welcome to see maritime links receiving their due weight (pp. 4-5). Drake’s subsequent discussion of landed society in the county is positioned within the debate on integration and divergence framing the book: he shows that the earldom-duchy’s close connections with the crown linked it to regnal authority in England in an unusual way and also meant that the greatest lord in the region was perennially absent, a dynamic which is explored at greater length in part II. Drake suggests that the resident gentry of the county were relatively localised, for ‘the majority of those lords who owned land in the county resided principally or solely in Cornwall’ (p. 11). But alongside this, Drake shows that the county’s elite had many things in common with their counterparts from England’s other counties: the fourteenth century saw the consolidation of landed wealth at the gentry level into fewer hands and, predictably, the marriage market served to connect Cornish men and women with families and lineages from east of the Tamar. One thing which made Cornwall unique was the presence of its own native language (a key facet of the ‘Cornish exceptionalism’ argument). It appears that Cornish was spoken by around half the county’s population by the fourteenth century, and more rarely as the speaker’s only language, so it will not do to imagine Cornwall as a ubiquitous block of native Cornish speakers unable to understand the words of outsiders. Furthermore, as Drake points out, ‘multilingualism was the norm in medieval England… and English itself heavily regionalised’ (p. 18-19).
Chapter two explores office-holding and office-holders in the county. As in Durham and Lancashire, the appointment of the county sheriff was a lordly prerogative and the office was combined with the stewardship of the earl-dukes until the death of the Black Prince in 1376. Such rights gave the earls and dukes of Cornwall a very substantial degree of influence on landed society and saw Cornish office-holding become integrated into the wider networks of service and reward surrounding the earls and dukes of Cornwall. The development of parliament through the late thirteenth and fourteenth centuries also helped integrate Cornwall and the voices of its inhabitants into the wider Plantagenet polity, since Cornwall returned MPs both on behalf of the county and to represent its numerous boroughs. The increasing growth in royal judicial activity through the century led many Cornishmen to become involved in the delegated workings of royal justice, with the role of Justice of the Peace in particular used to pursue both national and local politics. More generally, and despite even the obvious prominence of the earl-duke in Cornwall, Drake takes care to emphasise that the integration of Cornwall into the common law and parliament meant that it was ultimately ‘the king, not the duke, who acted as the judge of last resort in Cornwall’ (pp. 37-8).
The looming issue of ‘Cornish identity’ forms the subject of chapter three.(3) This chapter is framed by the debate over the ‘county community’ noted above, in particular Christine Carpenter’s oft-quoted suggestion that ‘There is now a strong case for banning the word "community" from all academic writing and an even stronger one for banning it from the vocabulary of politics’.(4) On the basis of a wide-ranging discussion that takes in the structure of county administration, the language of petitions written on behalf of the county’s inhabitants, shared spaces of collective action such as the county court, the legend of King Arthur, and the Cornish language, Drake argues ‘Leaving “community” for small groups, we should cautiously favour the term “commonalty” for the more expansive form of collective interactions represented by the county, a term that contemporaries often employed’ (p. 43). This county “commonalty” is then—necessarily—situated within both narrower and wider solidarities (links between Cornwall and Devon, for example, or between maritime regions) that formed part of the polyvalent and shifting patchwork of identities adopted by the people of Cornwall at different times and in different situations. Drake is careful to qualify his suggestion for the use of the word “commonalty” to describe the collective interests of the county. Certainly, in using this word historians will have to take great care (as Drake himself has done) not simply to import the word “commonalty” while resurrecting the concept of the older discredited model of county “community” that drew criticism from Carpenter in the first place. Chapter four continues to explore how the people of Cornwall thought of themselves and how the people of Cornwall were considered by others. This takes in travel and travellers, the meaning of the very words ‘Cornwall’ and ‘Cornish’, local customs, and further research on language and mythology. The use of comparative material is particularly enlightening here: the point is well made, for instance, that the law did not enforce an ethnic divide between a ‘native’ population and the English, as did the legal frameworks of Ireland and Wales. In both chapters three and four, Drake repeatedly hammers home his theme of connectivity. While Cornwall certainly existed as a distinct entity in the hearts and minds of its residents and played host to many distinctive customs and practices, ‘notions of Cornishness were defined in no small part through the county’s interactions with the rest of England, by Cornwall’s Englishness’ (p. 107).
Part II of Cornwall, Connectivity and Identity—‘Distant Dominium: Comital, Ducal and Regnal Lordship’—offers a chronological approach to the exercise of lordship in the county which complements the thematic structure of Part I and allows Drake to position Cornwall within the wider political history of England. Drake considers how the absentee lordship of the earl-dukes of Cornwall actually worked by breaking the century down into three distinct phases: the earldom (from 1300 to 1336 and the death of John of Eltham); the dukedom under the Black Prince (1337-76); and 1377-99, when the title duke of Cornwall was held by the king, Richard II. Drake charts the political experiences of the county under these lords, all the while taking care to point out that the concerns of the earl-dukes extended far beyond Cornwall itself. John of Eltham never visited Cornwall; the Black Prince did so rarely and his interests and responsibilities spanned a much wider world, particularly in the 1360s; and Richard II had the entire Plantagenet realms to (mis)rule. In the course of this discussion, a number of interesting points emerge. Firstly, Drake’s study makes it clear just how damaging the disastrous kingship of Edward II was for the locality. Under Piers Gaveston as earl of Cornwall and Edward II as king, political inertia and insensitivity to the norms of local political life caused serious instability at a local level. Norms of good lordship were established under Edward III by John of Eltham, whose early death in 1336 removed a lord whose administration appears to have been scrupulous and attentive both to his and to local concerns. This section then veers into a discussion of Cornish lawlessness more generally. This is inserted somewhat awkwardly, since it disturbs the chronological structure employed throughout the rest of Part II, but its conclusions are of broader significance. Drake notes, for example, the influence of local factors (for instance the presence of the tin trade and the extent of the county’s maritime border) in causing lawlessness, but positions law and order on a wider scale, rather than adhering to stereotypes of Cornish anarchy.
Under the Black Prince, who was elevated to the title of Duke of Cornwall in 1337, Cornwall became a frontline in the war against France. The intertwined efforts of the Prince and of Edward III to enforce acceptable standards of public order and to mobilise the county’s men and resources in the war effort dominated the political life of the county for the next 40 years. For much of this period, the Prince took a keen interest in Cornwall generally (occasionally actually visiting the county in person) and particularly in the appointment of officials. Between 1354 and 1370, for example, the Prince made sure that trailbaston commissions were regularly renewed. From 1362, when he was made Prince of Aquitaine as well as Prince of Wales, distance forced a lessening of interaction between the county and its absentee duke. Drake then reveals that Cornwall under Richard II was subject to the policies Richard applied elsewhere in the realm. From 1389, Richard II was instrumental in appointing commissions in the county and he also retained Cornishmen in his own service while importing ‘new men’ into the county’s landed society. In a short lived but potentially seismic reworking of the county’s power structures, Richard established John Holand as a major presence in the south-west and made him duke of Exeter in 1397. All this adds to our growing understanding of just how much Richard II’s kingship grated against traditional patterns of local politics. In the concluding section of Part II, Drake returns to the familiar theme of connectivity between Cornwall and the wider realm. Engagement with the lordship of the earls and dukes of Cornwall ‘pulled Cornwall towards greater integration with the wider realm, spreading awareness of the county’s status as a clearly defined part of the kingdom of England’ (p. 165). Distinctiveness and integration are once again presented in tandem.
The first two parts of Cornwall, Connectivity and Identity are in some ways traditionally structured: an exploration of the structure of landholding society and local identities followed by a tour through local politics with an eye on the connections between the ‘centre’ and the localities are common enough in regional studies. Part III is more of a departure from the usual parameters of inquiry. This section—‘Connectivity: Cornwall and the Wider Realm'—takes as its theme the links connecting Cornwall with the world beyond and applies approaches derived from a ground-breaking study of the Mediterranean to foreground the theme of connectivity which underlay the first two parts of the book.(5) This makes it the most innovative and most exciting of the book’s three sections. Drake starts from the notion that ‘connectivity disseminated a consciousness of Cornish integration that actually sharpened notions of Cornishness in the peninsula itself’ (p. 170) and then proceeds to explore ‘regnal connectivity’. This requires a demonstration of exactly what connected the Cornish with the operation of royal government. This discussion takes in the visits of royal officials from outside of Cornwall to the county and the recruitment of Cornishmen into offices outside of Cornwall itself, the work of MPs, and the place of petitions as an interface between Cornish interests and the wider world. Drake uses this prosopographical research to recreate a thick web of connections and interactions which bound Cornwall into the wider polity ruled by the kings of the England.
‘Military connectivity’ forms the subject of the next chapter. Again, this chapter is underpinned by detailed work into individual life histories. Drake has, for instance, identified no fewer than 452 instances of named Cornish men-at-arms and mounted archers fighting in royal expeditions between 1298 and 1415 (p. 183). The lack of a resident magnate in the region meant that the service of these men did not revolve around the presence of a local magnate figure acting as a recruitment hub, which has been identified in various other regions of England across the fourteenth century. Drake demonstrates the extent of Cornwall’s involvement in warfare and explores what participating in royal war could offer to the men of the county, before turning to the impact of coastal raiding on coastal areas. A discussion of the war at sea (pp. 191-7) is particularly enlightening and should serve as an exemplar of how to treat land armies and the maritime world as two sides of the same coin. Chapter 10 moves onto ‘Lordly Connectivity’ which, again, leaves the reader with few doubts about the strength of the ties which served both to connect and to differentiate Cornwall from England more generally: by serving the earl-dukes, local men and women were integrated into wider networks of lordship while, in turn, lordly officials from other areas were frequent visitors to the county.
Chapter 11 provides a fascinating account of commercial connectivity. Detailed study of both the tin trade and of debt patterns reveals the strength of Cornwall’s economic ties with London. The capital was especially important as a hub for Cornish goods and trade but Drake also takes care to illuminate commercial connectivity with other regions of England. This leads to the inevitable conclusion that ‘… the many interlinked strands of commercial connectivity, from networks of exchange and social interaction through to political considerations arising from trade, helped Cornwall cohere with the rest of England’ (p. 234). The following three chapters range in turn across the law, the church, and the sea. Despite the numerous customary courts which perforated the legal landscape of the region, Cornwall’s integration into the royal common law system encouraged ‘legal connectivity’ and Drake shows how many Cornishmen made careers out of legal expertise. These included no lesser personage than Robert Tresilian, who rose to become Chief Justice of the King’s Bench and whose loyalty to Richard II saw him executed in 1388. Chapter 13 surveys the county’s ecclesiastical institutions and points to the significant numbers of Cornishmen who left the county to pursue higher education (usually at Oxford), before becoming integrated into the Church both in and beyond Cornwall. The Church therefore acted as a bonding agent between Cornwall and the wider realm, in much the same way as the common law, the king’s armies, and the lordship of the earl-dukes. Chapter 14 comprising in an innovative discussion of maritime connection which ranges across trade connections with English ports, Wales, Ireland, Bordeaux and Brittany, and considers Cornish involvement in smuggling and the famously Cornish pastime of piracy (both as victims and perpetrators). Altogether, ‘The sea formed a most remarkable medium of interchange’ (p. 302).
In a series of lengthy appendices, Drake provides readers with a useful and substantial body of data which both supports his text and provides a starting point for future research. Appendix I provides a lengthy list of Cornish office holders (listed alphabetically), appendix II provides a chronological list of military service personnel listed by campaign which draws on extensive work with unpublished sources, and appendix III provides fragmentary information on the shipping provided for the king’s fleets which gets fuller in the last quarter of the century. Those names listed in the appendices have not been integrated into the index.
Returning to the text of the book, two final sections hammer home the theme of connectivity which binds together the diverse subjects of the individual chapters. Drake returns to the question of Cornish distinctiveness and ‘otherness’ in a succinct and powerfully articulated conclusion and suggests ‘By the fourteenth century the people of England believed in – even assumed – their kingdom’s coherence, but that kingdom still contained a kaleidoscope of structures and sentiments… For all its idiosyncrasies by no stretch of the imagination could Cornwall be said to have constituted a land apart’ (pp. 312, 314). Drake has written a book which leaves the reader in no doubt as to the validity of his claims for simultaneous Cornish distinctiveness and Cornish connectivity with the wider realm. It is based on a huge amount of research and wide reading in numerous areas of historiography. In the preface, Drake notes that ‘No overarching study of medieval Cornwall has been written for over sixty years’ (p. xix): given the quality and range of the work presented in the following pages, it may very well be another 60 years before another historian feels the need to provide a new ‘overarching study’ of their own. Furthermore, Cornwall, Connectivity and Identity shows how interesting and important the model of the county study can still be.
It is not easy to pick fault with such an exhaustive and wide-ranging work. The structure of the book means that there is at times some repetition, both in the emphasis on connectivities and in smaller points of detail: Bishop Grandisson’s statement on the Cornish language, for example, appears on both pages 18 and 84, while his lament on Cornwall’s place at ‘the ends of the earth’ appears on page 3 and again on page 70. The period 1295-1405 is perhaps too early to be talking of the ‘House of Commons’ (e.g. on pp. 20, 24), a term which only appears to have gained the institutional meaning implied there towards the end of the fifteenth century. Such points do not, of course, detract from the overall impression left by Cornwall, Connectivity and Identity.
As with any work of high quality, the main complaint is simply that Drake had to stop somewhere. He has raised many interesting questions and cannot pursue answers to them, even in such a formidable volume. I will limit myself to two such observations here. Firstly, I was struck by Drake’s ability to write about both the war on land and the war at sea. It is clear that such a holistic approach has a great deal to recommend it. Given what seems to be a weighting towards the last quarter of the century in appendix III, would it be feasible to try and apply this approach to the history of the Hundred Years War more generally? Drake’s work, together with that of Andrew Ayton and Craig Lambert, suggests that—if this was a feasible approach—it could offer a new avenue for understanding the course and broader impact of medieval warfare.(6) Secondly, I was left curious about the connectivities Cornwall shared with regions beyond England itself. While connections with Ireland, Wales and areas of France are noted periodically (especially in the maritime sections), Drake concentrates on connectivity with England. This is perfectly understandable given debates over Cornishness but it would be interesting to frame the issue of Cornish connectivity in the (even) wider setting of the ‘Plantagenet Empire’ as a historiographical approach encompassing all the king’s dominions. Drake at one point suggests ‘At the centre of the hub of all pan-English interactions was the person and office of the king himself’ (p. 171): could this approach to Cornish connectivity with the king’s dominions not be applied to all the regions ruled by the kings of England? While Drake cites both Peter Crooks’s ground-breaking 2011 article and an important volume of conference proceedings on the ‘Plantagenet Empire’, he does not engage directly in whether Cornwall could or should be situated as part of this ‘imperial’ space.(7) In my mind, doing so might reinforce and complement the connectivities Drake so ably illuminates between Cornwall and England. Such an approach would have made what is already a large book into a multi-volume project with a planned publication date receding into the distant future. But, given the strength of his first book, one can only hope that Sam Drake carries on where he left off in Cornwall, Connectivity, and Identity and provides us with more food for thought in the coming years.
- C. Carpenter, ‘Gentry and Community in Medieval England’, Journal of British Studies, 33 (1994), pp. 340-380.Back to (1)
- A. Gundy, Richard II and the Rebel Earl (Cambridge, 2013); and see G. Dodd, ‘County and Community in Medieval England’, English Historical Review, 134 (2019), pp. 777-820. This article out too late for Drake to use but should be read alongside his book. For another regional study, see C.D. Liddy, The Bishopric of Durham in the Late Middle Ages: Lordship, Community and the Cult of St Cuthbert (Woodbridge, 2008).Back to (2)
- Based on S.J. Drake, ‘Since the Time of King Arthur: Gentry Identity and the Commonalty of Cornwall c.1300-c.1420’, Historical Research, 91 (2018), pp. 236-254.Back to (3)
- Carpenter, ‘Gentry and Community’, p. 340.Back to (4)
- P. Horden and N. Purcell, The Corrupting Sea: A Study of Mediterranean History (Oxford, 2000).Back to (5)
- A. Ayton and C. Lambert, ‘A Maritime Community in War and Peace: Kentish Ports, Ships and Mariners, 1320-1400’, Archaeologia Cantiana, 134 (2014), pp. 67-104.Back to (6)
- P. Crooks, ‘State of the Union: Perspectives on English Imperialism in the Late Middle Ages’, Past and Present, 212 (2011), pp. 3-42; The Plantagenet Empire, 1259-1453: Proceedings of the 2014 Harlaxton Symposium, ed. P. Crooks, D. Green and W.M. Ormrod (Donington, 2016), See also Brendan Smith, ‘Late Medieval Ireland and the English Connection: Waterford and Bristol, ca. 1360–1460’, Journal of British Studies, 50 (2011), 546-65.Back to (7)
In responding to Dr Matt Raven’s review of Cornwall, Connectivity and Identity in the Fourteenth Century, I would first like to thank Dr Raven for both reading my book so closely and for writing such a comprehensive review. I do not have anything much to add to his comments about the book itself – his review is immensely thorough. In the cause of scholarly debate, however, I thought I would respond to some of the broader points that he felt my study raised about the history of later medieval England, Britain, and a wider Europe.
It is perhaps worth beginning with Dr Raven’s thoughts about the interconnected nature of warfare on land and warfare at sea in the middle ages. With its long coastland and its many resident gentlemen, Cornwall inevitably contributed to both these theatres of war throughout the 1300s and beyond. All the evidence points to this fact, from the naval pay rolls listing the hundreds of county ships that sailed in royal fleets through to the horse inventories recording the many Cornish knights who campaigned for the king. Dr Raven is surely right to emphasise the particular mobilisation of men and ships in the last quarter of the fourteenth century. It is in this period that the overlap of military personnel becomes most apparent, with many Cornish gentlemen serving the king at sea and these same folk mobilised at home to defend the county from enemy raiders. The evidence from Cornwall points to the fact that our understanding of this phase of the Hundred Years’ War – and of medieval warfare more generally – could be greatly enhanced by considered military service on land and at sea as an interlinked whole.
A word also ought to be said about Dr Raven’s kind comment that ‘Cornwall, Connectivity and Identity shows how interesting and important the model of the county study can still be’. It is true that county studies have been out of vogue for some time now, being eschewed in favour of social network theory or completely abandoned. Yet there is still merit in county studies – and the genre does have a future – for the simple reason that there was a great deal of activity going on at the shire level that is both well documented and well worth investigating. The truism also bears repeating that to understand the wider history of the realm it is essential to appreciate the diversity of its constituent parts. The structures of the county had a key role to play here, with shires serving as a units of collective government and grievance that bound their inhabitants both to each other and into the kingdom at large. While county sentiment was by means perfectly defined or definable, it should be placed in a whole hierarchy of solidarities ranging from sub-county localism through to larger regionalism and regnal solidarity itself. All these overlapping sentiments served to determine the intertwined political dynamics of both the localities and the kingdom. Perhaps, though, it is the nature of the questions asked of the ‘county’ that really determines the value of this avenue of investigation. Although I explored at length the forces that bound the residents of Cornwall together, in a sense I sought to turn the traditional county study on its head by placing connectivity and Cornwall’s place in a wider world at the very centre of my book. I tried to ask very big questions about the Cornish peninsula in particular and about the role of the county in later medieval life more generally.
Throughout my book I was conscious that later medieval Cornwall held a place in a world far wider than England. There is evidence that Cornishmen were active in the Papal Curia; that they served as judges in Ireland; that they enforced Edward II’s lordship in Aquitaine; and that they traded with folk from as far off as the Baltic and the Mediterranean. Dr Raven’s thoughts about framing the issue of Cornish connectivity in the even wider setting of the Plantagenet Empire have much merit. There are, however, a few caveats to this. For a start, there is a danger that the nomenclature of ‘the Plantagenet Empire’ – a term never employed by contemporaries – suggests a sense of imperial uniformity that simply did not exist amongst the diverse lordships over which the kings of England ruled. In comparing and contrasting these domains, there is also a danger that we simply entrench the idea that England, Wales, Aquitaine, and so on each formed coherent entities bound together under the rulership of the Plantagenets. Within each of these domains there was enormous diversity which should not be glossed over. Any project on this subject should also strive to avoid simply comparing secondary literatures: we need boots on the ground and researchers in the archives to properly understand this ‘empire’.
All that being so, there can be little doubt that a consistently comparative approach across a yet wider canvas would cast an even sharper light on the nature of Cornish integration into the kingdom and the Plantagenet polity at large. The idea of historical connectivity, developed by Peregrine Horden and Nicholas Purcell in their study of the Mediterranean and enthusiastically adopted and adapted by me, may well point to a new way of understanding the cohesive forces that bound the Plantagenet Empire itself together. With the king of England standing at the centre of the hub of all pan-empire interactions – albeit as king, duke, lord and so on of these varying lordships – the movement of people, goods, and ideas within and between these many domains must have helped to bind all these territories together and to the king himself, just as connectivity linked Cornwall closely to the rest of the kingdom. In the Cornish peninsula, the degree of overlap between the many different strands of connectivity – regnal, lordly, military, commercial, legal, ecclesiastical, and maritime – was quite remarkable, creating a whole greater than the sum of its parts. It would be fascinating to explore whether or not this holds true across a wider Plantagenet polity and to consider the relative strength of the ties between the constituent parts of this sprawling empire. Within this new imperial historiography, a renewed focus on the maritime aspects of Plantagenet rulership would surely also be fruitful. Since every king from Edward I onwards asserted his lofty title as seignur le roi de la mare, in some sense the sea itself formed a watery Plantagenet domain that helped to bind together the family’s dynastic empire.
Perhaps by way of closing remarks, however, it is worth stating that in writing Cornwall, Connectivity and Identity I strove to produce something significantly beyond a narrow political history. In considering subjects as varied as identity, piracy, peoplehood, migration, Arthurian myths, and social and geographic mobility, I sought to engage with all these debated subjects and write an ‘in the round’ history of a particular place and its contacts with the wider world in the fourteenth century. I remain convinced that there is enormous value in detailed investigations of this sort, both because they tell you so much about the nature of the place under consideration and because the conclusions that they draw have far wider repercussions for our understanding of medieval life. If Cornwall, Connectivity and Identity goes some way to dispelling the idea that there was ever such a thing as a static, unchanging middle ages in the Cornish peninsula or anywhere else then I will be very pleased indeed.