This volume is the published outcome of two workshops held in 2012–13 on the topic of later medieval annexations and movements of borders. The contributors offer an admirably coherent set of chapters, which relate to one another both thematically and geographically: all of the contributions cover regions on, or just beyond, the shifting and contested frontiers of the kingdom of France in the twelfth to fifteenth centuries. This coherence is aided by the tight definitional scope established by the editors, Stéphane Péquignot and Pierre Savy, in their introduction. Against the backdrop of a crowded historiographical field concerning the medieval frontier, they seek to pin down the modalities by which lands, jurisdictions and peoples moved from the control of one lord to another, and the conceptions of borders and sovereignty which such processes revealed or transgressed. They acknowledge that to speak of ‘annexation’ (a nineteenth-century word in its modern sense) raises problems of teleology and anachronism, which have been especially prevalent in narratives of French history. Yet contemporary concepts of annexatio or transportus and their vernacular equivalents did exist, and sometimes connoted the joining or attaching of a possession to a patrimony. The editors contend that studying processes of changes in boundaries and spheres of control reveals late medieval ideas of ‘the constitution of territory, that which makes and underpins the spatial demarcation of power’, and the extent to which contemporary authorities pursued deliberate ‘projects of annexation’ (pp. 17–19). Two of the longest chapters consider these questions in the context of the frontiers of the kingdom of Aragon. Surveying the twelfth to fourteenth centuries, Flocel Sabaté highlights the mutability and gradual consolidation of borders and identities between Aragon’s constituent parts (Catalonia, Aragon and Valencia), as well as between Aragon and France, with particular reference to two case-studies: the Aran valley and the viscounty of Fenouillèdes. Stéphane Péquignot examines the temporary ‘annexation’ of the counties of Roussillon and Cerdanya by Louis XI in 1461–3 and its aftermath. He argues that the intensification of authority over these localities by Louis’ government, which sought to turn what had been a transfer in pledge (pignus) from Aragon into permanent subjection, ‘put the established political and territorial order to the test’ (p. 198). Though ambitious, this move was far from clear cut; the assertion of control on the ground was gradual, patchy and involved a great deal of informal coercion and juridical ‘slippage’ (p. 215). Three contributors examine zones that now form or adjoin south-eastern France. Antoine Franzini offers some brief reflections on the difficulties and ambiguities involved in asserting jurisdiction over later medieval Corsica. By rendering thirteenth- and fourteenth-century records as maps, Valérie Theis traces the competing definitions of the Venaissin and its patrimony which the incoming papal government faced as it sought to take control of the county between 1274 and 1317. Pierre Savy studies Louis XI’s bestowal of Genoa and Savona as fiefs upon Francesco Sforza in 1463. He shows that Italian diplomats and rulers perceived this as an ambitious and illegal move, since these communes formally belonged to the Empire. Though short lived, and in part a product of Sforza’s desire for leverage vis-à-vis the emperor, this episode shows that, in the later fifteenth century, it was becoming increasingly possible to imagine the extension of French suzerainty beyond its traditional eastern borders. The other four contributions focus on France’s contested and shifting eastern frontier zones. Georg Jostkleigrewe compares the French acquisition of Lyon in the early fourteenth century with two other near-contemporaneous border disputes involving Aragon and Genoa. In the case of Lyon, French officers seem to have been unusually aggressive in seeking to expand royal jurisdiction. Yet locally these tensions were a matter of contests over episcopal autonomy and liberties, and it was only from a distance that Lyon’s integration was narrated in terms of shifting Franco-imperial borders. ‘Annexation’ therefore emerges as a fiction of sharpening and expansionistic theories of royal sovereignty. Anne Lemonde-Santamaria presents the ‘transport’ of the Dauphiné to the French crown in 1349 as a gradual and contingent process, driven by the debts, biological misfortunes and religious predilections of Humbert II, the last dauphin of the Viennois. It was accomplished through a convergence of royal, imperial and papal interests within the volatile juridical framework of the former ‘kingdom of Arles’, rather than a French thirst for territorial aggrandisement. In a thoughtful and conceptually sophisticated contribution, Élodie Lecuppre-Desjardins explores perceptions of the territories of Valois Burgundy. Far from being a straightforwardly centralising ‘state’, as it has often been portrayed, the Burgundian principality was primarily articulated as a dynastic agglomeration, conceived in terms of the numerous but fragmented titles borne by its rulers. Notions of borders, notably with France, certainly appear in the sources, but they are nebulous, non-linear and clearly contingent upon specific agendas, such as the avoidance of jurisdictional and fiscal burdens. By contrast, Léonard Dauphant argues that the eclipsing of feudal, religious and dynastic logics by the conception of a sovereign royal state in fifteenth-century France accounts for the territorial fluctuations on the Upper Meuse and Upper Saône. The ‘internal construction of the state’ (p. 169) had the by-product of facilitating some territorial acquisitions, but, paradoxically, the solidifying notion of a delineated sovereign realm made it increasingly difficult to acknowledge changes that had taken place in practice, and so it was impossible to perceive them as ‘annexations’. In the conclusion, Jean-Marie Moeglin suggests that these case-studies are evidence both of the multiplicity of conceptions of borders in the later Middle Ages and of the long-term trajectory towards a relatively fixed ‘political frontier’, the product of a dialectic between local and central powers, that would become the hallmark of early modern sovereign states. Here Moeglin synthesises a feature of most of the contributions in this volume (with the notable exception of Lecuppre-Desjardins’s): an assumption that the governmental agencies involved in defining borders and extending jurisdictions were ‘states’ (presumably in the Weberian sense, but no definition is offered). Emerging ‘military and jurisdictional frontiers’ detected in the sources are equated with ‘state frontiers’ (‘ces frontières étatiques’—p. 219). Here, admittedly, the authors are just following the ingrained preference in French historiography for reading political processes through the prism of the genèse de l’État moderne. It is nevertheless regrettable that, in an otherwise highly sophisticated volume which convincingly contextualises notions of ‘annexation’ and strips them of their teleological baggage, the forms and concepts of statehood which these annexations may or may not reveal are taken for granted. © Oxford University Press 2018. All rights reserved. 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)
The English Historical Review – Oxford University Press
Published: Apr 3, 2018
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