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9781445645742Darren Baker of the blog and associated newsletter ‘The Provisions‘, has a new book on Simon de Montfort, With All For All, out now* with Amberley Publishing. I posed a few questions to him in the lead up to publication, to probe how his book responds to a range of opinions about this complex character circulating in the academic world:

This is the first biography of the Earl of Leicester since J. R. Maddicott’s Simon de Montfort in 1994. What do you see as the key distinction between your characterisation of Montfort and his? Do you think interpretation has shifted in a particular direction in the last twenty years?

Maddicott gives perhaps the fullest account yet of Montfort’s life and career. He is what you might say is a biographer’s biographer, meaning his work will always be an indispensable resource for people like me. In the end, however, I feel his judgment is too harsh, that he is inclined to see him easily corrupted by his success, to be too much like his father, who incidentally I don’t think was the complete demon he is often portrayed as today. Maddicott is certainly not the first to present such a sombre view, but so thorough is his biography that it has been the prevailing opinion since it came out. I see Montfort as a much more inspiring figure, one who truly did make a lasting contribution, and at first I felt compelled to answer criticisms about him in the body of my book. I then realized that most lay readers probably couldn’t care less for any scholarly tug-of-war, they just want a great story, so I shuffled my opinions to the back of the book. Read the rest of this entry »

Here’s a meeting that I shall be attending, although not, at this stage, presenting at, owing to the possibly ambitious list of things to which I’m already committed over the next three or four months. (What; me, bite off more than I can chew? Never!) The line up looks superb, so I’m very much looking forward to listening and absorbing. Registration is now open, and more details are here:

Ritual, State & Lordship

The conference will take place on 16 July 2013 at the New College of the Humanities, London, between 0900 and 1830. Registration cost: £5 for students/£10 for salaried attendees, to be paid on the day. In order to register please email the organisers at no later than 7 July.

Organisers: Lars Kjær (NCH), Levi Roach (Exeter), Sophie Ambler (KCL)

Bjorn Weiler (Aberystwyth): Introductory Remarks

Charles Insley (Manchester): Ottonians with Pipe Rolls?  Kingship and Symbolic Action in the Kingdom of the English

Levi Roach (Exeter): Full of Sound and Theory Signifying Nothing? Social Anthropology and the “Late Anglo-Saxon State”

Benjamin Wild (Sherborne): King Henry III and the Power of Aesthetics: Art & Ceremony in Thirteenth-Century England

Sophie Ambler (KCL): Making and Re-Making the King: the Ritual power of the Archbishop of Canterbury in Thirteenth-Century England

Christopher Tilley (KCL): “Communities of the Mind”: Ritual and Perception of Collective Political Identity in Thirteenth-Century England

Kenneth Duggan (KCL): The Ritualistic Importance of Gallows in England in the High Middle Ages

Lars Kjær (NCH): Hunting, Sociability and the Experience of Royal Favour

Nicholas Vincent (UEA): Concluding Remarks

Before anyone complaints, let me just say some of my best friends work on accounts. Despite their dry and dusty reputation, there’s plenty to be had from them – the accounts, that is; obviously, friends don’t need justifying! I refer you, for example, to an extremely interesting paper recently published by Benjamin Wild drawing on the Wardrobe accounts of Henry III during his captivity (1264–65); and another, by Lars Kjær, drawing on the household accounts of Eleanor, Countess of Leicester, in approximately the same period. These papers show us how accounts can reveal much, much more than the spending habits of ‘the accounted’, and the anal retentiveness of accountants themselves (although, on reflection, I even find that interesting… I mean, after all, as I have said before and will no doubt say again, much of my work is administrative history, and I spend a lot of my life mining for socially-meaningful gold in what most people would regard as the medieval precursor to the form letter, so who am I to talk…?!) Properly read, accounts can actually tell us about ideals and mindsets. I’m presuming that, for those reading, this is hardly news.

What has today drawn my attention to how one reads accounts was my own annual tax return. The taxation year in Australia ends on 30 June, and returns are due in within a couple of months of this date, so I have been filling in my expenses spreadsheet (the one I began several months ago with every intention of being a conscientious and regular recorder, in solidarity with the medieval maintainers of the close or fine rolls).[1] When I established this record I decided, because that’s the kind of gal I am, to include every expense, and not merely those relevant for taxation purposes. So I’ve been going through the giant undifferentiated mass of receipts in my ‘receipts in’ folder. You know the one:

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I teach and research at the Centre for Medieval & Renaissance Studies in the School of Philosophical, Historial and International Studies, Monash University (Australia). Views expressed here are my own and not representative of the CMRS, SOPHIS or Monash.

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