Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1998
University of Wales at Swansea
Date accessed: 24 February, 2024
Joseph P. Huffmans Family, Commerce and Religion in London and Cologne: Anglo-German Immigrants, c.1000-c.1300: (Cambridge 1998) is the most recent contribution to a burgeoning field of historical scholarship, i.e. the study of Anglo-German relations in the Middle Ages. Over the last fifteen years a number of studies have appeared on the subject. Amongst the most important are Natalie Fryde, Ein mittelalterlicher deutscher Grossunternehmer: Terricus Teutonicus de Colonia in England, 1217-1257 (Stuttgart, 1997), Theo Holzapfel, Papst Innozenz III., Philipp II. August, König von Frankreich, und die englisch-welfische Verbindung 1198-1216 (Frankfurt/Main, 1991), T.H. Lloyd, England and the German Hanse, 1157-1611 (Cambridge, 1991), and Dieter Berg, England und der Kontinent: Studien zur auswärtigen Politik der anglonormannischen Könige(Bochum, 1987). Nonetheless, Professor Huffmans is the first attempt in English to provide a detailed investigation of the subject centred on the economic and social interaction between Cologne and London. Particular emphasis is given to emigrants and families who were distinguished by their role in arranging, or in profiting from, relations between Cologne and the English realm. In many ways, the Rhenish metropolis lends itself to this approach. Its economic significance remains undisputed, and the political clout of its archbishops made the city a frequent agent and go-between in Anglo-German relations. In 1066, for instance, the archbishop had been instrumental in securing the diplomatic "Back-up" for William of Normandys conquest of England. In 1198, they secured the necessary support, when Richard the Lionhearted decided to promote the candidacy of his nephew, Otto of Poitou, for the German throne, and in 1256 Archbishop Conrad of Hochstaden had enlisted the votes needed to facilitate Earl Richard of Cornwalls election as King of the Romans. Although this has long been recognised, Professor Huffmans chosen focus on the foot-soldiers of Anglo-German exchange, the merchants, clerics and adventurers, promises to shed new light on the technicalities and the personnel of economic and social exchanges in medieval Europe. For these reasons it merits close attention.
The book is divided into three sections. A number of shorter chapters deal with the material framework of economic exchange, the history of trade between London and Cologne, the latters declining influence in the course of the thirteenth century, and a history of currency exchange. Special emphasis is paid to the legal status of Germans in London from the eleventh century onwards, as well as the location and history of the London Guildhall, the "trading post" initially for Cologne, but increasingly for German merchants in general. This introduction to the economic background is rounded off by an investigation of currency exchanges between England and Germany, and in particular the role of the sterling as a Leitwährung in medieval trade, as well as the standard for designing coins and currencies, including, it would seem, a rather profitable forging-industry which sprung up in the Rhineland during this period. In the second part, Professor Huffman presents two case-studies, one of a number of Cologne families who seem to have originated in England, and their economic fortunes during the thirteenth century, and the second that of the Zudendorps, a Cologne family which was not only active in economic exchanges between Cologne and England, but who also acted as envoys and diplomats during much of the thirteenth century. Particular use is made of the Schreinsbücher, a set of legal documents outlining property transactions in thirteenth-century Cologne, so far a largely untapped source. This picture is complemented in part three by a survey of clerics whose careers spanned both the English and the German realm, as well as the relics and saints who can serve to illustrate the close cultural and religious connections between the two regions. It may be worth pointing out, for instance, that St Ursula was initially said to have been a British princess before being martyred with her 10,000 companions near Cologne, where she became one of the major attractions for medieval pilgrimages, including a visit by no lesser a person than Margery Kempe. All in all, some of the major elements of Anglo-German relations in the Middle Ages are dealt with. Much of this centres on the thirteenth century. This is, however, the result of the quantity and quality of material surviving from this period, and is nonetheless useful in assessing developments which occurred since the early eleventh century. As such, this book promises to fill an important gap in the study of the medieval economy, as well as bringing together German and English scholarship.
Unfortunately, Professor Huffmans study does not always live up to these expectations. This is due to reasons which are not always entirely within the authors control. Much of the chapter on the English in Cologne, for instance, is little more than a list of property transactions. To a large extent, this approach is conditioned by the sources available to Professor Huffman - the Schreinsbücher -, but it also highlights some of the perennial problems in having to rely primarily on legal and administrative materials for an investigation of social developments. We learn very little about the families involved, beyond what is revealed in these lists of property transactions. More importantly, the fundamental methodological problem at the heart of Professor Huffmans investigation - to what extent does the name de Anglia or Anglicus denote English origins, or simply close contacts with England - seems to have defied a wholly satisfactory solution. What Professor Huffman does show, however, is that sufficient evidence survives to suggest that English emigrants did settle in Cologne, and, as far as their property transactions imply, sometimes with considerable success. It is only in the final part of study, that the evidence allows the author to paint a more wide-ranging picture, when dealing with men such as Gerard Pucelle, a member of Thomas Becketts entourage and close friend of John of Salisbury, who later became one of the leading teachers of Canon Law in Cologne, or Bishop Savaric of Bath, who utilised his relations with the Emperor and his close access to Richard the Lionhearted to secure himself an Episcopal see in England. These are important elements in a picture, which may not be familiar to many anglophone historians. However, it certainly is not the major new contribution, which would encourage historians to reconsider their basic assumptions as to what constituted medieval Europe. That, however, is what Professor Huffman all too frequently proclaims his book to be.
This leads to two major criticisms, the first one of posture, the second one of approach and methodology. Professor Huffman promises more than he delivers, and more than he can deliver. He is certainly right in chastising the anglo-centric parochialism of much current medieval scholarship not just in Britain, but in the English-speaking world as a whole, and he is also correct in pointing out that medieval Germany was not a shadowy and semi-barbarous entity somewhere east of Dover, but a major factor in the economic, cultural and social development of medieval Europe. Moreover, the present study possesses considerable merit, inasmuch as it makes available substantial amounts of German scholarship to those who do not take a professional interest in the history of either Germany or Anglo-German relations. It also provides us with detailed facets of what the so commonly acknowledged social and economic interchange in medieval Europe meant in practice. For once, we do not see kings and emperors negotiating, but merchants and artisans organising their exchanges and careers. Unfortunately, Professor Huffman does not seem to be content with this, and all too often he protests a degree of novelty for his contribution which is not always justified. The present book does not put forth a revolutionary new thesis or methodology, but applies existing approaches in greater detail than has previously been the case, while rarely departing from the well-trodden paths of historical scholarship. Professor Huffman moves within parameters which have been established for several generations, and they are rarely, if ever, questioned. By and large, he is deepening rather than expanding the field of Anglo-German relations. Neither the choice of his topic economic exchange and social mobility nor the geographical framework which he is considering Cologne and London go beyond what historians have been doing for the last 120 years. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it contrasts unfavourably with some of the rather grandiloquent claims put forth in this book. Pointing out that the London-Cologne nexus was an important one qualifies neither as a surprising nor as a new insight.
The second objection to be made follows from this. As Professor Huffman rarely goes beyond the established framework, the focus of his investigation often seems unduly limited. This refers not only to a general lack of interpretation and analysis, but also to the methodological, geographical and prosopographical focus chosen. There is very little in terms of interpretation in this book, which for its most part is a list of property transactions and excerpts from financial records. To some extent, as has been mentioned earlier, this is the result of the sources at hand. However, even so not very much is done with these materials. There is little reference as to their application beyond listing and citing them. We are thus well informed, for instance, of the Zudendorps economic and diplomatic role, but we do not know where to place them. How were they different from other families ? How typical was their career as merchant-diplomats in the thirteenth century ? How do they compare to other important families, either from Cologne or from elsewhere, as, for instance, the family of the advocates and mayors of Aachen (who attained a no less important role in facilitating diplomatic and economic exchanges)? How do the actions and undertakings of Arnold fitz Thedmar in London compare to those of the various English families registered as being active in the Rhineland ? There certainly are limits as to what can be gleaned from the surviving records, but these are questions which could and should have been addressed. As this has rarely been done in any detail, much of the material unearthed by Professor Huffman remains in an interpretative void and leaves the reader at a loss as to what to do with it.
A similar problem is posed by the thematic, geographical and prosopographical restrictions which Professor Huffman has imposed upon himself. There are valid reasons, for instance, for concentrating on economic and social exchanges, while leaving aside the political history of Anglo-German relations. At the same time, an awareness of the political context within which the protagonists of Professor Huffmans study acted would have been helpful, and could have provided some of the analysis which the book as a whole is often lacking. It may have been worth considering, for instance, to what extent Colognes declining significance in Anglo-German economic exchanges from c. 1230 onwards was mirrored in the shifting emphasis of Anglo-German diplomatic contacts. Is there a connection between Henry IIIs diplomatic efforts concentrating on the Emperor himself, rather than the German princes, and a decrease in trading privileges for and other contacts with the Rhenish cities ? To what extent were the problems of the English families and merchants in Cologne during the 1260s related to the increasingly hostile relations between the Archbishop and Richard of Cornwall ? These are matters, which would not have forced the author to veer from his chosen field of enquiry, as they form part of the necessary background to the activities and undertakings which he is exploring. After all, the families considered by Professor Huffman merited their inclusion in this book by their outstanding role in diplomatic as well as economic exchanges. Certainly, even just highlighting the political parameters within which they acted and the impact these had or may have had on their careers would have been worth further consideration.
Similarly, English contacts with the medieval German empire outside Cologne are mostly left untouched. This is certainly justifiable in the context of a study on economic and social exchange between London and Cologne, but, once more, at least some awareness of what else was going on would have strengthened Professor Huffmans argument. In its present form, the study does not go beyond the established assumption that prior to the foundation of the Hanseatic League - Cologne, and Cologne more or less alone, mattered in exchanges between England and Germany. As a result, some rather important pieces of information have been overlooked, even within the chosen parameters of Professor Huffmans book. For instance, although the attempts of Henry III to marry a Bohemian princess in 1227 are mentioned, as is the Bohemian envoy, Count Arnold of Hückeswagen, Arnolds identity remains unresolved. This is regrettable, as looking at this in more detail would certainly have underlined Professor Huffmans point of the pre-eminence of Cologne, as well as the wide range of men and people involved in economic and social exchanges. The Counts family originated from Westphalia, where they held fiefs of the archbishop. Arnolds father had frequently witnessed charters of Archbishop Adolf, while Arnolds son and heir joined the chapter of St Pantaleon in Cologne. Certainly, this would not have forced Professor Huffman to reduce his coverage of Cologne in any degree, which could be deemed irresponsible, but it would have broadened the range and scope of the material available for analysis.
Equally, Professor Huffmans prosopographical focus is sometimes unfairly restricted. Obviously, the nature of the sources will force any author to concentrate on merchants and those whose actions and undertakings were reported in financial or legal records. Nonetheless, a lot more could have been accomplished even with the material at hand. In addition, a number of sources survive which could have facilitated a broader coverage of people and social groups. In the final part of his book, Professor Huffman does cover some of the clerics and scholars who were involved in exchanges between Cologne and London, and he also gives a brief survey of religious relations, while parts of section two deal with artisans from Cologne active in England. By and large, though, we are presented with a list of contacts, little comparison, and no analysis. In addition, even some of the materials, which could have been used to present a broader picture, remain unexplored. Nicholas of Cologne, for instance, a goldsmith involved in the production of St Edward the Confessor's shrine at Westminster, is mentioned, but little effort is made to illuminate the range of his activities, and what effort there is has been banished to the footnotes. This is the more regrettable, as his would have been an ideal example to illustrate the pitfalls and difficulties faced by artisans in general, and presumably - emigrants in particular. After all, we mostly know of Nicholas, because King Henry III failed to pay up. As a result, his requests for money, and the kings promises and evasions run like a red thread through several issues of the Liberate Rolls. Similarly, the circumstantial evidence which could justify speculations as to mercenaries from Cologne being employed by Simon de Montfort at the battles of Lewes and Evesham is not even mentioned, and although Professor Huffman does refer to the clerics whose careers spanned both the English and the German realm, rather surprising lacunae remain. Who, for instance, was the "Magister Andelmus, natione Coloniensis" whose consecration as archbishop of Armagh in Ireland mentioned by Matthew Paris ? Certainly, he was potentially one of the most important "German" emigrants to the dominions of the English king during this period, and as such worth considering.
None of these omissions on their own would pose a serious criticism of Professor Huffmans approach and coverage. However, taken together, they underline the most serious weakness of Professor Huffmans investigation. This study remains a worthwhile contribution, not the least so, because it presents the results and approaches of earlier generations of German scholarship in English, and thus opens up this field to a wider audience. In addition, some new materials have been found and presented, and a number of additional sources have been mustered and examples found to illustrate the degree of interaction between Cologne and England. As a whole, this study deepens our knowledge of economic, diplomatic and social ties between the Rhineland and England, and confirms what most historians have held be the case already. At the same time, this is considerably less than what Professor Huffman originally intended. This is the result both of an exaggeratedly ambitious rhetoric, and of a failure to look beyond the established confines of the subject. Nobody would have expected a complete coverage of all contacts of any kind between Germany and England from the eleventh to the early fourteenth century. Nonetheless, even with regard to Cologne some important fields have not been given the attention they deserve, and even within the context of social, religious and economic exchanges between Cologne and London, this study could have profited from an awareness of the broader framework of the events, institutions and topics it describes. Germany not to speak of the empire itself - does extend beyond Cologne. Many opportunities for using the materials unearthed have been left unexplored. On a more technical level, it would have been feasible, for instance, to reduce coverage of the Zudendorps and the English in Cologne, as both have been the subject of substantial articles by Professor Huffman, and instead to present more of a comparative analysis. Thus, Professor Huffman would have expanded and broadened our understanding of the cross-connections and intersections between England and Germany in particular, and within medieval Europe as a whole.
Clearly Bjorn Weiler has problems with the interpretative aspects of my book, since he reviews little of the actual content of the book itself and has minimal difficulty with the original archival research done. Professor Weiler rejects my thesis out of hand. Through "grandiloquent claims" and "exaggeratedly ambitious rhetoric" I am said "all too often" to "protest a degree of novelty for [my] contribution which is not always justified." He asserts that the book "rarely goes beyond the established framework" and "certainly is not the major new contribution, which would encourage historians to reconsider their basic assumptions as to what constituted 'medieval Europe.' That, however, is what Professor Huffman all too frequently proclaims his book to be."
Leaving aside the issue of who employs ambitious rhetoric, we need first to clarify the "historians" to whom the book was addressed. Cambridge University Press did not sanction a monograph solely directed to the dozen or so Anglophone historians of medieval Germany (though I surely hope they will read it). Rather, the book speaks to the wider community of Anglophone medievalists and asks them to question why medieval Germany remains on the margins of our historiography. The relevance of medieval Germany may be obvious to Professor Weiler, whose recently completed dissertation work has immersed him in the subject, but it is patently obvious to the wider Anglophone academic world that Germany has been peripheral in the definition of "medieval Europe," in favor of the predominant Anglo-French political paradigm. It is this vision of Europe that I was calling into question, which has in particular ignored the fruitful contacts between England and Germany during the High Middle Ages.
Professor Weiler's senior colleague at the University of Wales, Swansea, has understood this. In his recent review of my book, published in the American Historical Review (December 1999, pp. 1729-1730), John France asserts "In fact, this is a book that ought to interest a wide range of students of medieval history. As Joseph P. Huffman rightly observes, in discussing the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, historians have been mesmerized by the Anglo-French and German-Italian axes. This is, in part, because these connections are clearly political and thus fit into even the simplest approach to the medieval world. In this perspective, Germany has been seen as markedly removed from the Anglo-Norman world, and, indeed, even from the mainstream of Western European development. As Huffman says, we tend to place German development in the later Middle Ages and to see it in connection with the Hanse. What he seeks to demonstrate is that there were very substantial trading connections between England and Cologne in the period 1000-1300." I shall leave it to other readers to determine whether my research findings support this call to reassess the place of medieval Germany in Anglophone historiography, but at least now you have the thesis clearly articulated. Here is Professor France's judgement of how justified and novel my thesis is: "Huffman has certainly demonstrated the particular importance of Cologne in the period in question. In effect, he has laid a basis for a new Anglo-German perspective modifying our very Anglo-Norman perceptions." This contrasts sharply with Professor Weiler's assertion that the book "confirms what most historians have held to be the case already" and does not "go beyond what historians have been doing for the last 120 years."
Next, Professor Weiler complains that the book has "a general lack of interpretation and analysis . . . there is very little in terms of interpretation in this book." This conclusion is most puzzling, given that he critiques my interpretative/analytical approach, just mentioned above, as grandiloquent and exaggeratedly ambitious rhetoric. Again, John France read the book otherwise: "This careful collection of material shows just how important Germans, and especially the men of Cologne, were during the twelfth and thirteen centuries in the economic, social, and political life of England. There is much fascinating material, but above all the analysis [emphasis mine] provides a much sharper perspective on the whole gamut of Anglo-German relations. One of the most compelling themes of this book, sustained throughout its chapters, is the interaction between economic and political relationships."
It quickly becomes clear that when Professor Weiler refers to "analysis" he means more discussion of the wider political context. He writes: "At the same time, an awareness of the political context within which the protagonists of Professor Huffman's study acted would have been helpful and could have provided some of the analysis which the book as a whole is often lacking." A political study was not the purpose of this book, but is the subject of my forthcoming book, as Professor Weiler well knows.
The book currently under review is a prosopographical study (thus intentionally not a political study but a socio-economic and cultural study) which documents the careers of individuals and families living as emigrants in either Cologne or London, and was to serve as a case study justifying my call for a reappraisal of medieval Germany. Neither was it intended as nor does it claim to be a survey of all of medieval Germany; indeed, one monograph can only achieve so much. At one point Professor Weiler even affirms my approach and research boundaries: "This is certainly justified in the context of a study on economic and social exchange between London and Cologne."
Yet even so I did make continual references to the larger political environment.
Professor France notes this in his review: "Political connections are explored, and they form an essential part of the context [emphasis mine]." The lack of an extended political analysis, however, makes the book repeatedly "regrettable" according to Professor Weiler. Yet he knew in advance of the nature of this book and that my forthcoming book would address Anglo-German political relations specifically, since he contacted me via email as a graduate student about a year ago to find out what I was working on. After discovering the peculiar coincidence that my forthcoming book on Anglo-German diplomacy happened to overlap with his dissertation on Anglo-German Relations in the Reign of Henry III, and that we both were awaiting publication of articles on Richard of Cornwall, email communication ceased.* Could my book be regrettable for other reasons? If so, we can expect that my forthcoming book may be considered even more regrettable.
Such an overemphasis on political expectations results in an egregious oversight of the current book's core material. The discovery of a substantial English community in Cologne during the pre-Hanse era was surely something novel and important. And I was able to document this by unlocking the riddle of these emigrants' surnames. Weiler dismisses this centrepiece of the book by concluding that "We learn very little about the families involved, beyond what is revealed in these lists of property transactions. More importantly, the fundamental methodological problem at the heart of Professor Huffman's investigation - to what extent does the name de Anglia or Anglicus denote English origins, or simply close contacts with England - seems to have defied a wholly satisfactory solution." Yet once again, John France is of a different opinion: "There is a very complicated terminological problem to overcome, in that many historians have been reluctant to accept that the name Anglicus (and its cognates), found among families in Cologne, denotes English descent. Huffman convincingly establishes that this name indicates a family that was English or of English descent, perhaps through marriage into an English family. That there were English families whose names appear in the Cologne records as early as the mid-twelfth century is deeply interesting. In fact, much of the book is a prosopographical analysis, and it has to be said that, in general, prosopography does not lend itself to exciting prose, but Huffman has a light touch and achieves clarity. English settlement in Cologne was important, and it is remarkable that families became integrated into local society while still preserving an English identity."
By relying on Professor Weiler's review, the reader would have no idea of this substantial new research nor of its significance for the book's thesis. Rather, the reader learns more detail about my leaving out one chronicle reference to a "Magister Andelmus, natione Coloniensis." This can hardly be deemed evidence of several "rather surprising lacunae" in my discussion of Anglo-German clerics. I was aware of the citation, but left mention of Andelmus out of my account simply because he was in Ireland rather than England.
In conclusion, I find it fascinating how two historians, in the same university and history department no less, could read the same book so differently. France concludes: "Huffman has produced a well-written and carefully constructed book," and Weiler concludes: "Professor Huffman promises more than he delivers, and more than he can deliver." I can only conclude from my vantage point that each reviewer understood the function and goals of the book quite differently, and this shaped their final assessment. In a word, one reviewed the book I wrote, the other the book I didn't write. Knowing what I actually intended and wrote, it is clear to me that John France understands the book better. I would encourage our readers to compare the two reviews (and the book, of course) to make up their own minds, and they might also have a look at Edward Peters' review in Central European History for a more broadly informed assessment of the book's originality and place amid Anglophone historiography on medieval Germany.
*Joseph P. Huffman, The Social History of Medieval Diplomacy: Anglo-German Relations (1066-1307) (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999).
This book was to be available in December 1999, but the publisher is running behind schedule. It should be available within a few weeks according to my editor. Unfortunately my article remains at the mercy of the publisher, along with others, in a collection of essays on medieval Germany. Professor Weiler's essay has appeared in the English Historical Review (November