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Welsh History Review

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Vol. 11, nos. 1-4 1982-83

Froissart : historian : Book review.

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be found in the Victoria County History, Berkshire, is very prosaic:
Lambourn was given to Mabel as dower when she married John de
Tregoz.
The political role of the marcher lords in national events is somewhat
exaggerated. Dr. Meisel sees the existence of two Englands, 'one led by
the king and his court and the other led by the Marcher barons'. These
barons 'hovered over the March like a giant thundercloud on the English
horizon'. Regional and separate loyalties were certainly strong, but do
they justify this almost Disraelian concept of two nations ? Can they lead
to the view that 'much of the history of thirteenth century England is in
urgent need of revision'? Perhaps it is: but one local study, narrowly
based in area and range, can scarcely be expected to substantiate such a
claim. It is sad to have to concentrate on weaknesses in a first book which
shows considerable promise. Firmer supervision at graduate school, or a
candid and informed reader at the point of publication, might have
eliminated some of the weaknesses and fostered the promise.
Swansea DAVID WALKER
Froissart: HISTORIAN. Edited by J. J. N. Palmer. The Boydell Press;
Rowman & Littlefield, 1981. Pp. xii, 203. £ 20.00.
Understandably, a major work on Froissart as an historian would be
difficult for one man to write. The oeuvre is so large, the manuscript
problems so considerable, the difficulties arising from the fact that we
are dealing with a man whose talent lay in the writing of both 'intermi-
nable' verse (mainly fiction) and historical narrative (usually fact) so great
that it would constitute the undertaking of a lifetime (or of a good part
of it) for an individual to study the writer to whom all who wish to learn
about the fourteenth century must, sooner or later, turn.
If one man cannot do the work, then today's practice of collecting a
team must needs be invoked instead. This team, and not least the captain,
had no easy task. The approach chosen, 'Froissart and (which may
be a person or persons or a particular geographical area, perhaps between
certain dates) has tended to lead to a series of opening generalisations
on Froissart's work followed by a closer look at a particular subject.
Some of these statements have too little of what is new or constructive
to offer, and tend to be rather negative in character. Is it really necessary
to repeat that Froissart sometimes got his dates wrong? This failure
clearly worried some contributors, while others seemed less concerned
by it. It was more interesting and constructive to be shown that Froissart's
'historical' approach differed much from that of our day; that he lacked
that sense of reflection and critical approach which we look for in proper
historical writing today; and that his evidence (for instance, his portrait
of Gaston Febus) does not necessarily correspond to that based upon a
study of archive material. Indeed, does Froissart merit the title of historian
given him in this book? The case is made, but by the end one reader
remained unconvinced. His work is too strongly didactic, too romantic
and, in spite of some special pleading, too little concerned with the
critical approach and the notion of causality for him to merit the title. He
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