L’Anjou des princes is the second in a series of four volumes overseen by Jean-Luc Marais, dedicated to the history of Anjou from its earliest origins to its incarnation as the modern département of Maine-et-Loire in the twentieth century. Pending the publication of the first volume on the region’s history up to the mid-ninth century, this is the earliest of the series so far, and traces Anjou’s history from the emergence of the post-Carolingian comital dynasty in the late ninth century to the duchy’s reintegration to the French crown in the late-fifteenth century. Its first half is overseen by Noël-Yves Tonnerre, its second by Jean-Michel Matz and accordingly benefits from the expertise of both on earlier and later medieval history respectively. It is avowedly a synthesis rather than a piece of original research, and a welcome one in a growing but fragmented field, providing a useful perspective on a region whose history is heavily compartmentalised by traditional divisions between early, central and later medieval periods. The volume is divided into five parts. The first examines the rise of the comital dynasty from its origins in the late ninth century to the ultimate loss of the county in the early thirteenth, after decades of accumulating power. The section is primarily a narrative of the period, but also provides an important chapter on the prestige and the power of Anjou’s nobility, a long-overdue modern appraisal, especially given the continued reliance of historians on older studies of individual noble families. Usefully, the bibliography provided in this chapter flags up a number of unpublished French thèses and mémoires de maîtrises, signalling a promising change in the direction of research. The second part of the book addresses the theme of spiritual and cultural life, with chapters on the links between the church and comital power, papal reform and monasticism, the region’s schools and local art. The third part is also thematic, focusing on environmental history, specifically the transformation of Anjou’s countryside between the tenth and twelfth centuries, when monasteries and lords oversaw considerable deforestation and intervention in the region’s rivers to support livestock, cultivation and fishing. These developments came hand-in-hand with the rapid appearance of castles in Anjou’s landscape and of numerous bourgs. The two chapters in this part of the book set these developments in useful perspective, examining not only these processes themselves but also, for example, the role different kinds of lords played in them, Anjou’s particular economy (which relied on watermills, cereals, wine and, in some areas, mining) and the rise of certain towns. The fourth and fifth parts of the book turn to Anjou’s history under the successive rule of the Capetian kings (1202 to the mid-fourteenth century) and the Valois dukes (mid-fourteenth to late-fifteenth centuries). The first chapter of part four provides a useful overview of how the Capetians conquered and ruled Anjou, first directly and then as an apanage. Discussion then turns to Anjou’s prosperity, religious and cultural life, and the looming Hundred Years’ War. Like the first three parts, the chapters on Anjou’s later history provide useful insights into the key features of Angevin life; in particular, the dramatic changes relating to the county’s administration (including the introduction of a salaried body of officials) and judicial system (the introduction of an appeal tribunal, ‘a major instrument in the affirmation of royal sovereignty’), as well as Charles I’s ambitions in Italy. Under the Valois in the fourteenth century, Anjou’s prosperity was effectively reversed through a combination of war, epidemic and famine. The chapter details Anjou’s place at the centre of the Hundred Years’ War, detailing its impact on the local economy in particular. In spite of this turbulence, Anjou experienced another period of flourishing culture in the final years of the period, which saw the establishment of a university and schools alongside the rise of private libraries, and the final chapters of the book situate this in the context of Humanism. With this volume, Matz and Tonnerre have provided a much-needed and usefully organised synthesis of Angevin history. It is notable for its use of a variety of different sources and for its thematic range. On the other hand, it is regrettable that the format of the book means that it is not well referenced in spite of the very clear breadth of historiography underlying it. Each chapter ends with a very limited overview of selected readings and, while a few short pages prefacing the first chapter detail the key primary sources for the earlier period, there is no equivalent survey for the thirteenth, fourteenth or fifteenth centuries. On a similar note, the chronological span of the volume means that space is at a real premium and, at times, this is problematic, such as in the case of the troubled second half of the eleventh century, which is granted only the most cursory of overviews and which sometimes incorporates quite uncritical readings of the evidence. In spite of these problems, this is a useful, accessible and well-written work. It will be an essential first port-of-call for anyone, particularly students, wishing to understand the history of medieval Anjou. © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for the Study of French History. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: email@example.com This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)
French History – Oxford University Press
Published: May 9, 2018
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