What is a ‘Companion’ for?
It is a brave man who would take on the job of writing a history of Germany and the Holy Roman Empire between 1493 and 1806. Many historians would maintain that neither Germany nor even German national consciousness (certainly not German nationalism) existed during this period; as for the Holy Roman Empire, there is a long-running dispute over what it actually amounted to.
The Festschrift, usually a gathering of articles composed to honour a scholar on his or her retirement, or to mark a significant anniversary, originated around the beginning of the 20th century, and has become an acknowledged feature of the academic landscape, albeit one rather irregular in its occurrence. Continental Festschriften have sometimes run to several volumes.
Hannah Barker’s book is a thorough and engaging evaluation of late medieval slave trading practices in the Mediterranean. The tile is taken from the 15th-century recollection and denunciation of an Alexandrian slave market by Felix Fabri, a German friar (p. 209).
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.
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.