New Publications

York Medieval Press

York Medieval Press is an imprint of Boydell and Brewer Ltd, published in association with the
Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of York. Its aim is to promote innovative scholarship and fresh criticism on medieval culture. It has a special commitment to interdisciplinary study, in line with the Centre’s belief that the future of medieval studies lies in areas in which its major disciplines at once inform and challenge each other.

Sarah Rees Jones, York: The Making of a City, 1068-1350 (Oxford University Press, October 2013)

York was one of the most important cities in medieval England. This original study traces the development of the city from the Norman Conquest to the Black Death. The twelfth and thirteenth centuries are a neglected period in the history of English towns, and this study argues that the period was absolutely fundamental to the development of urban society and that up to now we have misunderstood the reasons for the development of York and its significance within our history because of that neglect.

Medieval York argues that the first Norman kings attempted to turn the city into a true northern capital of their new kingdom and had a much more significant impact on the development of the city than has previously been realised. Nevertheless the influence of York Minster, within whose shadow the town had originally developed, remained strong and was instrumental in the emergence of a strong and literate civic communal government in the later twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Many of the earlier Norman initiatives withered as the citizens developed their own institutions of government and social welfare.

The primary sources used are records of property ownership and administration, especially charters, and combines these with archaeological evidence from the last thirty years. Much of the emphasis of the book is therefore on the topographical development of the city and the changing social and economic structures associated with property ownership and occupation.

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Guy Halsall, Worlds of Arthur: Facts and Fictions of the Dark Ages (Oxford University Press, February 2013)

King Arthur is probably the most famous and certainly the most legendary medieval king. From the early ninth century through the middle ages, to the Arthurian romances of Victorian times, the tales of this legendary figure have blossomed and multiplied. And in more recent times, there has been a continuous stream of books claiming to have discovered the ‘facts’ about, or to unlock the secret or truth behind, the ‘once and future king’.

Broadly speaking, there are two Arthurs. On the one hand is the traditional ‘historical’ Arthur, waging a doomed struggle to save Roman civilization against the relentless Anglo-Saxon tide during the darkest years of the Dark Ages. On the other is the Arthur of myth and legend – accompanied by a host of equally legendary people, places, and stories: Lancelot, Guinevere, Galahad and Gawain, Merlin, Excalibur, the Lady in the Lake, the Sword in the Stone, Camelot, the Round Table.

The big problem with all this is that ‘King Arthur’ might well never have existed. And if he did exist, it is next to impossible to say anything at all about him. As this challenging new look at the Arthur legend makes clear, all books claiming to reveal ‘the truth’ behind King Arthur can safely be ignored. Not only the ‘red herrings’ in the abundant pseudo-historical accounts, even the ‘historical’ Arthur is largely a figment of the imagination: the evidence that we have – whether written or archaeological – is simply incapable of telling us anything detailed about the Britain in which he is supposed to have lived, fought, and died. The truth, as Guy Halsall reveals in this fascinating investigation, is both radically different – and also a good deal more intriguing.

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