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.
This is an important and valuable book. Many works of economic history include the word ‘Wales’ in a sub title or index but relatively few have engaged with the relatively sparse sources and unfamiliar context (to most English historians) of the royal shires—the north and west—and Marcher lordships—the south and east—that characterise Wales after the conquests of Edward I.