Wednesday, 5 March 2008

The Normans in Normandy: Recent Historiography 3

Expanding horizons

The revival of rural history in the years since 1990, the exploration of written documents in terms of inventories, description, dating and typology and of critical editions of texts, for example, censuses[1] and terriers[2] has not always received the credit it deserves[3].

Recent work on the role of the Exchequer in Normandy has shown the radical transformation of fiscal administration that occurred in the duchy in the course of the 1190s and underlines the importance of this source for increasing our understanding of towns, of monetary exchange and inflation, the organisation of war and, more generally, the administrative structures of the Norman state. The absence of a modern edition of the twelfth century Norman Exchequer rolls will be remedied by the work of Vincent Moss at the University of Reading[4]. This work will provide an invaluable means for examining Norman society and the Norman state in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries allowing, for example, explanation of the functions of the Exchequer and the administrative geography of the duchy as well as stimulating research on economic and social history by identifying the eight thousand people mentions in the rolls and allowing a scientific examination of the ruling and administrative class of the duchy. On this point, there already exists a database of prosopographical and documentary evidence produced by Katharine Keats-Rohan[5] that contains 95000 names taken from Domesday Book, the Pipe rolls and nearly 5000 English charters.

The range of material that it is necessary to take into account is not unique. To say that a particular witness, such as a charter, cartulary or the workshop of a potter initially has a physical reality is not especially original save to underline the epistemological challenge facing historians of mastering particular methodological tools. From this perspective the reports of the colloquy de Cerisy in October 1999 on the Bayeux Tapestry[6] demonstrates the synthesis possible between different ways of looking at the tapestry from the interpretations elaborated by history, to those of specialists in art and languages. This applies equally well to other iconographical sources like illuminations[7] or the study of medieval inscriptions for which there is now a volume of Corpus des inscriptions de la France médiévale [8]dedicated to Normandy.

The resources of linguistics, in particular areas like the study of dialects and place names have been especially valuable in explaining the nature of the Scandinavian settlement in Normandy. This has highlighted the apparent paradox between the evidence from place names and the almost complete absence of archaeological evidence[9] for the Nordic colonisation of the province of Rouen and its place in the complex movements of population between Northern Europe and the France and Britain[10]. These questions were debated in a comparative perspective at two recent conferences on the maritime heritage of the Vikings in North-West Europe[11] (at Flottemanville-Hague, 30th September-3rd October 1999) and on the Scandinavian settlement in the West and the beginnings of the duchy of Normandy (at Cerisy-la-Salle, 25th-29th September 2002).

The expansion of available sources is clearly indebted to medieval archaeology. Of central importance was the path finding role played by Michel de Boüard in the blooming of this discipline, the scale of the information now available through annual reports in the scientific journals of the regional archaeological services, the accounts of excavations in Archéologie médiévale and from conferences and meetings. The archaeology of buildings has also seen an impressive number of publications especially two volumes on medieval Norman architecture recently republished with an up-to-date bibliography[12].

The confrontation of texts and archaeology has been especially fruitful in understanding the basis of power in ducal Normandy and its links to urban development. The example of Fécamp has already been recognised. Excavations at Rouen suggest a fundamental reorganisation of urban space at the end of the ninth century, perhaps comparable to the transformation that occurred at Winchester at the same time. This revision of established views has been associated by Jacques le Maho[13] with a change in the functions of the town from being a place of refuse for the mercantile and artisanal population under pressure from the Scandinavian invaders while ports were dispersed along the lower valley of the River Seine to an important expression of ducal power. The town was revitalised after it was captured by Rollo and became his capital and because it also contributed to the reunification of the Nordic settlers in Neustria. In the period between the tenth and the twelfth century, excavations show that the town became an important centre not simply for the growing Norman economy but as an important expression of a developing civil Norman architecture[14] from the reign of Richard I. Its growth was paralleled by the expansion of Caen[15] and a little later by Bayeux and Lisieux[16].

The study of Norman society cannot be concluded without taking into account the importance of castles[17]. The census of the fortified sites has been continued by department and regional archeological service and research departments such as the Centre de recherches Archéologiques et Historiques Médiévales. It was thus possible, for certain departments, like l’Orne, to suggest a comprehensive listing and classification of this mass of documentary material to explain the development of the network of castles. The results of several excavations carried out or started in the 1990s are accessible in various publications. This is the case for the castle of Domfort[18], the ‘Old Castle’ of Vatteville-la-Rue,[19] the motte of Rivray at Condé-sur-Huisne[20], at Bretoncelles[21] and Château-Gaillard aux Andelys[22]. The data collected is important in analysing methods of construction[23], the typology of castle construction and the material aspects of the everyday life at the sites[24]. The research undertaken informs the debate on the fundamental problems of the political and social history of the duchy[25]: the genesis of the castellans, the development of the great territorial domains on the southernmost borders of the duchy, like the seigneurie of Bellême[26] or the county of the Perche[27]. They also provide information on the vast subject of the occupation of the soil, the nature of dwellings and the organisation of the territory. These topics are also at the heart of the debates that have taken place on the genesis of the medieval village, an approach largely renewed by the archaeologists[28]. The 1990s saw major archaeological operations in the neighborhoods of Caen[29] on the sites of Saint-Martin de Trainecourt and at Sente, the resumption of the excavations of the deserted village of Saint-Ursin-of-Courtisigny that led to the excavations at Giberville, at Vieux-Fumé[30] in Tournedos-on-Seine and at Bouafles.

The analysis of decorated and glazed ceramics discovered in Rouen and the comparison with other batches of ceramics of the tenth and eleventh centuries found in North-West Europe, in particular in York, confirmed the importance of exchanges between the principality of Rouen and British Isles from the earliest years of ducal Normandy, already suggested by anthroponymic and toponymic data. Sites of production of ceramics already the scene of excavations has led to several publications like those devoted the work of the pottery at Roche-Mabile[31] (Orne), dating from the end of twelfth century, or papers from a conference organised in Rouen in 1994 on the ceramics of the eleventh to sixteenth centuries in Normandy, Beauvaisis and the Ile-de-France[32]. The centres of this ceramic production are known better and this is particularly the case for the workshops of Molay-Littry, where activity dates from the eleventh century[33]. It still remains necessary to specify the chronology of the development from the workshops of organised potters that can be identified in fourteenth and fifteenth centuries in Bessin[34], in Domfrontais and in Mortainais to the development of skilled artisans in clay[35]. The techniques used, the type of workplaces, the products and the nature of markets are of considerable interest to researchers but they also focus on the organisation of production and on the communities that contributed to the expansion of the industry. These problems that link the analysis of the data provided by archeology and by the texts also relates to other types of activities, like the iron and steel industry, for which Mathieu Arnoux[36] has underlined the importance and the diffusion of community structures of production largely anchored in the rural Norman society, which showed considerable evidence of economic vitality.

It is to be expected that this analysis of recent historiographical and bibliographical advances will quickly becomes obsolete as study of the materials relating to ducal Normandy develops. Research by Veronique Gazeau[37] on the abbots Benedictines, their manuscripts and on the liturgy[38] is a good indication of this process. As historians continue to examine different types of documents and explore the opportunities offered by electronic publication, it is to be expected that new developments will continue to emerge.


[1] Denise Angers, Catherine Bebear and Henri Dubois, Un censier normand du XIIIe siècle. Le Livre des Jurés de l’abbaye de Saint-Ouen de Rouen, Paris, 2001

[2] Denise Angers, ‘Terriers et livres-terriers en Normandie (XIIIe-XVe siècle)’, in Ghislain Brunel, Olivier Guyotjeannin, Jean-Marc Moriceau (eds.) Terriers et plans-terriers du XIIIe au XVIIIe siècle. Actes du Colloque de Paris (23-25 septembre 1998), Rennes-Paris, 2002, pages 19-35 and Thomas Jarry, Terriers et Plans parcellaires de Basse-Normandie (XIIIe-XVIIIe siècle), Caen, 1998

[3] See, Mathieu Arnoux and Ghislain Brunel, ‘Réflexions sur les sources médiévales de ‘histoire des campagnes’. De l’intérêt de publier les sources, de les critiquer et de les lire’, Histoire et Sociétés Rurales, volume i, 1994, pages 11-35. Édith Peytremann Archéologie de l’habitat rural dans le nord de la France du IVe au XIIe siècle, two volumes, Caen, 2003 is especially important.

[4] Three papers by Vincent Moss are of especial value: ‘Normandy and England in 1180: The Pipe Roll Evidence’, in David Bates and Ann Curry (eds.), England and Normandy in the Middle Ages, London, Hambledon Press, 1994, pages 185-195, ‘The Norman Fiscal Revolution, 1193-98’, in M. Omrod, M. and R. Bonney (eds.), Crises, Revolution and Self Sustained Growth, Oxford, 1999, pages 38-57 and ‘The Norman Exchequer Rolls of King John’, in D. Church (ed.), King John: New Interpretations, Stephen Woodbridge, Boydell Press, 1999, p. 101-116.

[5] COEL: Continental Origins of English Landholders, 1066-1166, 2002 to be found on the Internet at www.linacre.ox.ac.uk/research/prosop/dbase.stm from which two books have already appeared: K.S.B. Keats-Rohan Domesday People: A Prosopography of Persons Occurring in English Documents 1066-1166 Volume I, Domesday Book, Woodbridge, 1999 and Domesday Descendants: A Prosopography of Persons Occurring in English Documents 1066- 1166 Volume II Pipe Rolls to Cartae Baronum, Woodbridge, 2002. See David Rolfe ‘The Continental Origins of English Landholders 1066-1166 database and the COEL Database System on CDROM’, Nottingham Medieval Studies, volume xvl, 2001, pages 234-7.

[6] Pierre Bouet, Brian Levy and François Neveux (eds.), La Tapisserie de Bayeux: l’art de broder l’histoire, Actes du colloque de Cerisy-la-Salle, octobre 1999, Caen, 2003.

[7] On this issue see, Pierre Bouet and Monique Dosdat (eds.), Manuscrits et enluminures dans le monde normand (Xe-XVe siècle), Actes du colloque de Cerisy-la-Salle, octobre 1995, Caen, Presses Universitaires de Caen, 1999, Richard Gameson, The Manuscripts of Early Norman England (c. 1066-1130), Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1999 and Marie-Dominique Nobécourt, ‘L’enluminure dans les manuscrits normands vers l’An Mil, d’après les manuscrits de la Bibliothèque municipale de Rouen’, La Normandie vers l’An Mil, Rouen, Société de l’Histoire de Normandie, 2000, pages 61-70.

[8] Robert Favreau and Jean Michaud (eds.), Corpus des inscriptions de la France médiévale, volume xxii, Calvados, Eure, Manche, Orne, Seine-Maritime, Paris, 2003.

[9] A recent consideration of the issue is Anne Nissen Jaubert, ‘Some aspects of viking research in France’, in Steffen Stumann Hansen, Klaus Randsborg (eds.), Vikings in the West, Copenhagen, Munksgaard, 2000, pages 159-169, especially pages 165-169.

[10] Gillian Fellows-Jensen, ‘Les noms de lieux d’origine scandinave et la colonisation viking de la Normandie. Examen critique de la question’, Proxima Thulé, Revue d’études nordiques, volume i, 1994, pages 63-103.

[11] Elisabeth Ridel (ed.), L’Héritage maritime des Vikings en Europe de l’Ouest, Actes du colloque international de la Hague (Flottemanville-Hague, 30 septembre-3octobre 1999), Caen, 2002.

[12] L’architecture normande au Moyen Âge, published under the direction of Maylis Baylé, 2nd ed., Presses Universitaires de Caen-Charles Corlet, 1997, 2001.

[13] The most important papers by Jacques Le Maho on Rouen are: ‘Autour d’un millénaire: l’œuvre architecturale à Rouen de Richard 1er, duc de Normandie (996)’, Bulletin des Amis des Monuments Rouennais, October 1995-September 1996, pages 62-83; ‘Nouvelles hypothèses sur l’église Notre-Dame de Rouen au Xe siècle’, in Sylvette Lemagnen et Philippe Manneville (eds.), Chapitres et cathédrales en Normandie, Actes du XXXIe Congrès des Sociétés historiques et archéologiques de Normandie, Annales de Normandie, Série des Congrès des Sociétés historiques et archéologiques de Normandie, Caen, II, 1997, pages 295-306; and in Philippe Manneville (ed.) ‘Les destins comparés de deux cités de fond d’estuaire: Rouen et Nantes du VIe au Xe siècle’, in Des villes, des ports, la mer et les hommes, actes du 124e Congrès des sociétés historiques et scientifiques, Nantes, 19-26 avril 1999, Comité des Travaux Historiques et Scientifiques, 2001, pages 13-25.

[14] On civil architecture see, Bernard Gauthiez, ‘Les maisons de Rouen, XIIe-XVIIIe siècles’, Archéologie médiévale, volume xxiii, 1993, pages 131-217 and Dominique Pitte, ‘Architecture civile en pierre à Rouen du XIe au XIIIe siècle. La maison romane’, Archéologie Médiévale, volume xxiv, 1994, pages 251-299.

[15] On Caen, see Christophe Collet, Pascal Leroux and Jean-Yves Marin (eds.), Caen, cité médiévale. Bilan d’archéologie et d’histoire, Caen, 1996 and Laurence Jean-Marie, Caen aux XIe et XIIe siècles. Espace urbain, pouvoirs et société, Caen, 2000.

[16] François Neveux, Bayeux et Lisieux Villes épiscopales de Normandie à la fin du Moyen Âge, Caen, 1996.

[17] Bruno Fajal (ed.), Autour du château médiéval, Actes des Rencontres Historiques et Archéologiques de l’Orne, Alençon, 5 avril 1997, Alençon, 1998 is a useful summary of developments. See also, Jean Flori, ‘Châteaux et forteresses aux XIe et XIIe siècles. Étude sur le vocabulaire des historiens des ducs de Normandie’, Le Moyen Âge, volume ciii, 1997, pages 261-273

[18] Gérard Louise, ‘Châteaux et pouvoirs dans le Domfrontais médiéval (XIe-XIIIe siècle)’, Les conférences d’histoire locale du lycée de Domfront, volume xiii, 1993, pages 11-28.

[19] Anne-Marie Flambard Hericher, ‘Le château des comtes de Meulan à Vatteville-la-Rue, étude comparative d’une demeure aristocratique normande’, Aux marches du palais, Qu’est-ce qu’un palais médiéval? VIIe congrès international d’archéologie médiévale, Le Mans-Mayenne 9, 10 et 11 sept. 1999, Le Mans, 2001, pages 213-221 and ‘La construction dans la basse vallée de la Seine: l’exemple du château de Vatteville-la-Rue (Seine-Maritime), Château-Gaillard, volume xviii, Caen, 1998, pages 93-102.

[20] Joseph Decaëns, ‘De la motte de conquête (XIe siècle) à la seigneurie châtelaine (XIIe siècle). L’exemple de Rivray à Condé-sur-Huisne’, Château-Gaillard, volume xvi, actes du colloque international tenu à Luxembourg 23-29 août 1992, Caen, 1994, pages 109-120.

[21] Anne-Marie Flambard Hericher, Philippe Bernouis, Joseph Decaëns, ‘La Butte du Château à Bretoncelles. Un exemple de la conquête territoriale des Rotrou’, Château-Gaillard, volume xix, actes du colloque international de Graz (Austria) 22-29 août 1998, Caen, 2000, pages 75-82.

[22] Dominique Pitte, Sophie Fourny-Dargère, Paola Caldéroni (eds.), Château-Gaillard: découverte d’un patrimoine (catalogue de l’exposition, Vernon, Musée municipal A. G. Poulain, 15 novembre 1995-février 1996), Vernon, Musée municipal A. G. Poulain. 1995.

[23] There are three important papers on castle construction by Anne-Marie Flambard Hericher, ‘Méthodes de recherche archéologique sur les châteaux de terre et de bois. L’exemple de la Normandie’, IV European Symposium for teachers of medieval archaeology, volume iv, Séville-Cordoue, 29th september-2nd october 1999, Séville, 2001, pages 99-112, ‘Fortifications de terre et résidence en Norman-die’, Château Gaillard, volume xx, Actes du 20e colloque international ‘Château Gaillard’, tenu à Gwatt (Switzerland) 2-10 septembre 2000, Caen, 2002, pages 87-100 and ‘Quelques réflexions sur le mode de construction des mottes en Normandie et sur ses marges’, in Mélanges Pierre Bouet, Caen, 2002, pages 123-132.

[24] Annie Renoux, Fécamp, du palais ducal au palais de Dieu, Bilan historique et archéologique des recherches menées sur le site du château des ducs de Normandie, IIe siècle A.C.-XVIIIe siècle P.C., Paris, C.N.R.S, 1991.

[25] Annie Renoux, ‘Palais capétiens et normands à la fin du Xe siècle et au début du XIe siècle’, in Michel Parisse et Xavier Barral (eds.) Le Roi de France et son royaume autour de l’an Mil, actes du colloque Hugues Capet 987-1987, la France de l’an Mil, Paris-Senlis 22-25 juin 1987, Paris, 1992, pages 179-191.

[26] Gérard Louise, ‘Châteaux et frontière seigneuriale au XIe siècle: l’exemple du Saosnois aux confins de seigneurie de Bellême et du comté du Maine’, Château Gaillard, volume xiv, 1990, pages 225-239; and La Seigneurie de Bellême Xe-XIIe siècles, dévolution des pouvoirs territoriaux et construction d’une seigneurie de frontière aux confins de la Normandie et du Maine à la charnière de l’An mil, two volumes, Flers, 1992-1993.

[27] Kathleen Thompson, Power and Border Lordship in Medieval France: The County of the Perche, 1000-1226, Woodbridge, Boydell Press, 2002 is the best study available in English. There are several important articles on the Perche: Joseph Decaëns, ‘Les Châteaux de la vallée de l’Huisne dans le Perche’, Anglo-Norman Studies, volume xvii, 1995, pages 3-20 and ‘La motte comme moyen de conquête du sol et comme instrument de la seigneurie châtelaine (XIe-XIIIe siècle): l’exemple de quelques châteaux à motte du Perche’, in Elisabeth Magnou-Nortier (ed.), Aux sources de la gestion publique, volume iii, Hommes de Pouvoirs, Ressources et lieux de Pouvoir (Ve-XIIIe siècle), Actes du colloque du 26 et 27 janvier 1997, Lille, 1997, pages 263-281.

[28] There are several important papers on this subject: Vincent Carpentier, ‘Un cas d’occupation du sol à l’époque carolingienne: le site du ‘Mesnil’, à Plomb’, Revue de l’Avranchin et du Pays de Granville, volume lxxvii, 2000, pages 177-18 and ‘Un habitat des XIe-XIIe siècles dans la campagne d’Argentan (Orne)’, Archéologie médiévale, volume xxxii, 2002, pages 69-103 and Claire Hanusse, ‘L’habitat rural du haut Moyen Âge (VIe-Xe siècle) de ‘la Sente’ à Grentheville (Calvados): premiers éléments de synthèse’, Actes du IIIe Colloque Européen des Professeurs d’Archéologie Médiévale (Caen, 11-15 septembre 1996), Caen, 1999, pages 85-93.

[29] Claude Lorren, ‘Le village en Gaule du Nord pendant le haut Moyen Âge. Quelques remarques et hypothèses suscitées par l’observation des résultats des fouilles archéologiques récentes’, Actes du IIIe Colloque Européen des Professeurs d’Archéologie Médiévale (Caen, 11-15 septembre 1996), Caen, 1999, pages 116-132.

[30] Vincent Hincker, Christophe Maneuvrier, Guy San Juan and Denis Thiron, ‘Des vestiges d’habitats des XIe-XIIe et XIIIe-XVe s. sur le site de la déviation de Vieux-Fumé (Calvados)’, Histoire et traditions populaires du canton de Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives, volume lxviii, pages 7-18 and ‘L’habitat des XIe-XIIe siècles de Vieux-Fumé (Calvados)’, in Dominique Pitte and Brian Ayers (eds.) La maison médiévale en Normandie et en Angleterre, Actes des tables rondes de Rouen (16-17 octobre 1998) et de Norwich (16-17 avril 1999), Rouen, 2002, pages 123-130.

[31] Philippe Bernouis, Daniel Dufournier, Bruno Fajal, , ‘Un atelier de potier de la fin du XIIe siècle à la Roche-Mabile’, Revue archéologique de l’Ouest, volume x, 1993, pages 129-139.

[32] Xavier Delestre and Anne-Marie Flambard Héricher (eds), La céramique du XIe au XVIe siècle en Normandie, Beauvaisis, Ile-de-France, Actes de la table ronde organisée à Mont-saint-Aignan, 12 février 1994, Publications de l’Université de Rouen, 1995.

[33] Anne-Marie Flambard Héricher, ‘L’organisation de la communauté de potiers du Bessin au bas Moyen Âge’, in L’artisan au village dans l’Europe médiévale et moderne, Actes des XIXe Journées Internationales d’Histoire de l’Abbaye de Flaran (5-7 sept 1997), Toulouse, 2001, pages 149-168.

[34] Anne-Marie Flambard Hericher, Potiers et poteries du Bessin. Histoire et archéologie d’un artisanat rural du XIe au XXe siècle en Normandie, Caen, 2002.

[35] On this point see, Bruno Fajal, ‘Une communauté de potiers normands du XVe au XIXe siècle (Manche): statuts et règlements du centre de Ger’, Histoire et Sociétés Rurales, volume x, 1998, pages 239-263.

[36] Mathieu Arnoux, Mineurs, férons et maîtres de forge. Études sur la production du fer dans la Normandie du Moyen Age, XIe-XVe siècle, Paris, 1993.

[37] Véronique Gazeau, Recherches sur l’histoire de la principauté normande (911-1204), I Les abbés bénédictins de la principauté normande (911-1204), II Prosopographie des abbés bénédictins (911-1204), Mémoire d’habilitation, Université de Paris I-Panthéon-Sorbonne, 2002.

[38] On this point see, David Chadd, The Ordinal of the Abbey of the Holy Trinity, Fécamp (Fécamp, Musée de la Bénédictine, Ms 186), part I, Woodbridge, Boydell Press, 2000.

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