Posts Tagged ‘Beowulf’

Well, the Civil War will have to wait a bit; there’s some medieval news to cover instead.  And happy April Fools’ Day.  I’m not much of one for the stupid jokes that happen on this day–though I did get my several classes really well last year. Walked in, distributed paper and announced that we were having a pop quiz on the readings for the past week. The looks of panic and disgust on their faces were matched only by the relief and laughter when I said “April Fools.” I remember in particular this one kid, a very quiet, very smart fellow, who just sat there laughing silently, the kind of laughter people have sometimes when they find a joke deeply satisfying for some reason.

Anyway, that was fun. And in keeping with this tradition, I found a couple articles from The Onion that are worth posting. One of them is funny: Americans just have to get motivated and do it.  Man, do I ever. That story speaks to me.  This other one isn’t funny, and having studied war and genocide as I have it seems a grimly quirky but realistic parody: the ICC announces a new “3 Strikes” genocide policy.  See, I’m not much good at this April Fools thing…

Ah, Medieval News.  My friends at Medievalists.net recently linked to a report from last year on the Staffordshire Hoard field work. Great stuff.  And I was just looking at recent post from Richard Nokes’ “Unlocked Wordhoard,” and saw that there’s a new Anglo-Saxon and Old English resources page, based at the University of Oxford, called the Woruldhord Project. Type in “Beowulf,” for instance, and you get a variety of teaching aids and course materials.  The real strength of the project, though, seems to be its physical objects catalog, which you can search or browse by a variety of headings from the home page. It draws on a number of institutional repositories, and gives full information on individual artifacts. Nice.

Finally, I was looking at Hannah Kilpatrick’s excellent blog “Mony wylsum way,” and her last two entries deal with Roger d’Amory’s death (probably, as she argues, from wounds suffered at Boroughbridge), and Edward II’s judgment on him, which stayed the execution and let Roger die “in the course of things” as it were. Really fascinating stuff. And not simply for her obviously high level of technical linguistic skills. I really appreciate the analysis as well, as I’ve been having many similar moments in the last few weeks–moments where the document “comes alive,” and you get a sense of the emotion that lies underneath. That Edward II had to punish his old friend one may take for granted, but that he still had some sense of affection for Roger, and stayed the actual execution, is not to be expected–this was Edward II, after all, and he could turn on close friends with a vengeance.

I especially find this interesting, as I do Kathryn Warner’s Edward II blog, because I am becoming more and more convinced that Edward II’s reign is crucial to understanding Edward III’s.  And that’s not such a simple point as you might think–most, if not all, histories fall into easy but facile assumptions based on chronology: Edward is deposed in late 1326, so we move to a new period. Isabella and Mortimer rule until Edward III’s coup in 1330, so now we enter a another period–ok, we can leave much of the previous 20 years behind, and focus on Edward III and his wars and politics. Whether or not they intend to achieve this effect, that is what strikes me about many studies of Edward II and Edward III.

In studying fourteenth-century military and social history, however, I’m thinking more and more that the years 1314 to 1327 are crucial to understanding the society that went to war in the 1330s and 1340s.  This is my notorious “Chapter 1″ (notorious to me, anyway), which I didn’t realize I was going to have to write at first. The personnel who go to war under Edward III in the 1330s were all ambitious young folks in the 1320s. The really interesting thing isn’t even so much Edward II’s deposition, as that in 1322, at the Battle of Boroughbridge, the earl of Norfolk and East Anglian barons stood with the king against Lancaster–five years later, Norfolk was among the first to welcome Isabella and Mortimer ashore, and Norfolk and Suffolk were plunged into a low-level civil and guerrilla war. You can see glimmers of these fractured social and patronage networks in the documents. For instance, hardly any East Anglian barons joined the army sent to Gascony in 1324-5–except Robert Ufford, the future earl of Suffolk. The gradual estrangement of Thomas Brotherton, earl of Norfolk and Marshal of England, from his brother Edward II, meant that the region was deprived of military, and one wonders even social, leadership. And all this has important consequences for how the region interacts with Edward III in the first 15 years of his reign–who gains preferment, who receives patronage, and who regards the crown as threat or opportunity. Not to mention the potential of this periodization to test particulars of my friend Dr. Clifford Rogers’ thesis concerning England’s 14th-century “revolution in military affairs”–one aspect of which is the improvement of English armor and weaponry from Bannockburn to Crécy.  Ah, but this stuff is fascinating…

The story is probably the same for other counties as well, but for reasons I won’t go into now, East Anglia is where my study is located.  Short form: if the period from 1314 to, say, 1340, is viewed as a unit, interesting patterns will emerge!

Ok, off to continue to work through the C76 Treaty Rolls.