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Welsh History Review


Vol. 17, nos. 1-4 1994-95

War, politics and culture in fourteenth-century England. Book review.

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world. The abiding message of this volume is that those wares are so attractive and the
quality of current Scottish historiography on the medieval period so promising that the
virtues of both need to be shouted from the rooftops to a wider historical audience.
That would be the best tribute to Geoffrey Barrow and to this festschrift which does
him so proud.
Sherborne. Edited by Anthony Tuck. Hambledon Press, London, 1994. Pp. xvi,
200. £ 35.00.
James Sherborne was a scholar whose interests ranged over two overlapping
fields-the cost and organization of warfare in the later fourteenth century and the
politics of Richard II's reign. In the former field he wrote magisterial papers, brought
together in this volume, on John of Gaunt's role in the expedition to France in
1369, the composition of English armies after 1369, the naval warfare of the 1370s
and the measures taken for national defence in 1386; in the latter field he contributed
pieces on the Lancastrian revolution, the culture of Richard II's court and Froissart's
portrayal of Richard. Sherborne's work was at all times characterized by an
impressive mastery of the sources, which meant that every sentence that he wrote
was loaded with meaning. He was particularly skilful in his handling of the
difficult Exchequer material, and there can be little doubt that the work that he
did in calculating the cost of warfare will never need to be done again. His handling
of the narrative sources could on occasion be less happy. He was unduly severe
on Froissart, for example, and, as Anthony Tuck suggests in a helpful intro-
duction, he did less than justice to the chronicler's ability to evoke the atmosphere
of courtly life in the period. On the other hand, it is evident that he had a gift
for sifting through conflicting chroniclers' accounts to establish the common
ground between them. This is a strength particularly noticeable in the two pieces
in this collection that have the strongest bearing on Wales: 'Richard II's return
to Wales' and 'Perjury and the Lancastrian Revolution'. The former piece subjects
to critical scrutiny the evidence for Richard's return from Ireland in July 1399,
and though to some extent it is superseded by Dorothy Johnston's analysis in
English Historical Review, XCVIII (1983), it remains a useful survey of the sources.
The other piece, one of Sherborne's most impressive, considers whether or not
Bolingbroke perjured himself in seizing the throne and concludes that, while in the
strict sense he did because he had sworn merely to recover his inheritance, he
was reacting to events and found himself carried further and faster than he expected.
Sherborne's scholarly output was based almost exclusively on a rigorous analysis
of the written sources. But it should be noted in conclusion that 'Perjury and the
Lancastrian Revolution' shows an aspect of his historical personality not evident
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