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Out on the Edge

Terry Barry
Norman Expansion: Connections, Continuities and Contrasts, ed Keith J Stringer and Andrew Jotischky, Ashgate, 261 pp, £70, ISBN: 97409448389 The Normans were one of those phenomena that transformed the history of Europe and beyond in the early part of the Middle Ages. Countless books and articles have been written about them and still we are finding new ways to try to fully understand their impact. Indeed, their military successes in countries as diverse as England and Sicily tends to disguise those places where they were not successful, such as the very short length of their occupation in North Africa, from the late 1140s to the early 1160s. Indeed, this is one peripheral area that is not really covered in this book, probably because the settlement was comparatively so ephemeral. But speaking more generally, two centuries, the eleventh and twelfth, were those when Norman power and authority were at their height. Whether one likes them or not, these Normans cannot be ignored if we are to fully understand the history of Medieval Europe and beyond. These issues are well analysed in this impressive new book, a series of essays largely derived from the 2011 UK Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded project called “The Norman Edge” led by the two editors. The main aims of this project were to critically examine the prime characteristics of Norman expansion on the peripheries of Christian Europe. All but one of the ten chapters in the volume had been given at the twice-yearly symposia held under the auspices of this project. A real strength of this volume is the balance of both younger as well as more established scholars. These contributions also cover the wide geographical spread illustrative of the impressive reach of these Normans in the medieval world, with one paper covering Ireland in the West, another investigating the castles of the Latin East, and the rest discussing much of the geographical area between. The first three chapters investigate the Normans in Scotland, with Stringer also examining their interaction with Northern England. In this important paper he reveals that many of the Norman settler families here still managed in the twelfth century to transcend ideas of loyalty and allegiance that were defined by the state. He also convincingly argues that many of these families still felt close to their original Norman roots, even as late as the first half of the fifteenth century. Robin Frame…



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