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King Stephen's Reign (1135-1154)

King Stephen's Reign (1135-1154)

Paul Dalton
Graeme J. White
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    King Stephen's Reign (1135-1154)
    Book Description:

    The turbulent reign of King Stephen is here subjected to a full assessment by leading scholars in the field. All of the most important aspects are fully covered: the impact of developments under Henry I on the origins of civil war; relations with the continent, as they affected Stephen's overall strategy and the foundation of religious houses; the opportunities which lured foreign mercenaries to England; mid-twelfth century legal developments and trends in revenue-raising; baronial and episcopal allegiances; violent disorder and civil unrest; and the sequence of events which unfolded during the political crisis of July 1141. Taken together, they provide the fruits of the most recent research into and the most up to date interpretations of the intense political and military activity of the reign. CONTRIBUTORS: MARJORIE CHIBNALL, JUDITH GREEN, DAVID CROUCH, JANET BURTON, THOMAS BISSON, BRUCE O'BRIEN, GRAEME WHITE, PAUL DALTON, STEPHEN MARRITT, HUGH THOMAS, EDMUND KING

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-651-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. vii-vii)
    Paul Dalton and Graeme J. White
  2. (pp. 1-10)

    THE REIGN OF Stephen invites and receives frequent attention from historians. Although it lasted a mere nineteen years it was rich in historical sources, both chronicle and charter. Moreover the charters, whether produced in monasteries or in secular writing offices, were far from stereotyped and frequently contained passages of narrative. Henry I died in December 1135 without any surviving legitimate son; the seizure of the throne by his nephew Stephen before his daughter Matilda was able to reach England occurred at a critical time for the development of the Anglo-Norman realm. Changes were taking place both in royal government and...

  3. (pp. 11-26)

    WHEN CONTEMPORARIES wrote of the conflict that broke out in England and Normandy after the death of Henry I, they described it as a struggle centred around the succession, about the actions of individuals, about castles and inheritances.¹ On the whole subsequent historians have followed suit: ethnic conflicts, religious differences, or economic issues were not fundamental causes, to compare with the central contest for power in which lesser folk were caught up. Where there have been different views, these have centred on motivation and timing: how deep-rooted were the origins of the war? What were the motives of the leading...

  4. (pp. 27-43)

    ANY CONSIDERATION of royal income in twelfth-century England is bound to rely very heavily on the pipe rolls. The fact that none survive from Stephen’s reign, though an obvious impediment, has not deterred scholars such as Judith Green and Kenji Yoshitake from making important contributions to our knowledge of the king’s finances¹ but this paper takes a different approach from that which they adopted. The task in hand here is to compare figures from Henry I’s extant pipe roll, that of 1130, with those of the first full roll of Henry II (1156) and to extend the analysis to selected...

  5. (pp. 44-57)

    WHAT SORT OF WORLD VIEW did a twelfth-century man possess? A lot hinges on the answer to that particular question. As we now know, medieval aristocrats travelled very widely and travelled constantly. They knew the roads of their world well, and there is no doubt that they compiled mental maps of it, maps by which they navigated also their political world. Both Gerald of Wales and Bertran de Born give us in their writings excellent examples of how they visualized the world in which they lived: Gerald in his topographical writings, and Bertran in his sketch of the components of...

  6. (pp. 58-79)

    A WEEK CAN BE a long time in politics. We owe the observation to Harold Wilson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1964 to 1970 and again from 1974 to 1976. His predecessor, Harold Macmillan, asked about the main difficulties that he faced in office, is reported to have responded very simply, ‘events, dear boy, events’.¹ A political historian, writing of Britain in the 1960s and 1970s, when these men were in power, can hope to provide a detailed analysis which takes proper account of these maxims. There is every need for a similar political history of the reign...

  7. (pp. 80-97)

    AFTER THE DEATH of Henry I, according to the author of the Gesta Stephani,

    England, formerly the seat of justice, the habitation of peace, the height of piety, the mirror of religion, became thereafter a home of perversity, a haunt of strife, a training-ground of disorder, and a teacher of every kind of rebellion. The sacred obligations of hallowed friendship were at once broken among the people; the closest bonds of relationship were loosened; and those who had been clothed in the cloak of an enduring peace were assailed by the noise of war and the fury of Mars.¹


  8. (pp. 98-114)

    THIS PASSAGE was written by William of Newburgh in his Historia Rerum Anglicarum, compiled in the 1190s at the Augustinian priory of Newburgh in Yorkshire. William was not the only one to notice the outburst of monastic foundations in Stephen’s reign and to link it to the chaos of the period. It is often the Cistercians, who arrived in Britain in the last years of the reign of Henry I, who attract attention, but this was indeed a notable period of expansion for other groups: the congregation of Savigny, the Augustinian canons, and, often unnoticed in this context, houses of...

  9. (pp. 115-138)

    THIS WAS the Gesta Stephani’s assessment of episcopal conduct during the civil war. Similar, if more moderate, views were held until relatively recently.² Paul Dalton has now shown, however, that some bishops were committed to peacekeeping, ³ and it has also been argued that their relations with King Stephen were better and more constructive than is often allowed.⁴ Here, another facet of the civil war bishops’ office is explored which has been little addressed beyond the exceptional case of Durham: engagement and integration with local political, religious and social dynamics and networks.⁵ Case studies are drawn from the three dioceses...

  10. (pp. 139-170)

    RECENT WORKS on Stephen and his reign have added great depth and nuance to our understanding of England’s history from 1135 to 1154.¹ They give us a better sense of Stephen’s abilities and the difficulties he faced, the degree to which his government remained functioning, and the role of the magnates in the civil war that engulfed his reign. Unfortunately, the scholars responsible have also sanitized the reign, unduly minimizing the amount of violence and disorder in their efforts to prove that Stephen was not such a bad king, that magnates were not mindless feudal anarchists, and that the reign...

  11. (pp. 171-181)
    T. N. BISSON

    A FEW YEARS after the ‘sedition between King Stephen and Duke Henry for acquiring the kingdom’, as he called it, a monk of Abingdon recalled that a constable of Wallingford, having promised to protect the monks in return for a payment by Abbot Ingulf (1130–58), had reneged and plundered the monastic vill of Culham. When the Abbot humbly sought restitution, he was rebuffed, and it was only when the constable was mortally wounded and needed release from ecclesiastical anathema that his brother promised to return the plunder – and in the end that promise, too, was compromised.¹

    This sort...

  12. (pp. 182-196)

    J. H. ROUND’s account of the burial of Geoffrey de Mandeville provides us with a point of departure for a discussion of law and its recorders in the reign of King Stephen. Geoffrey’s body, Round tells us, was, according to one account, wrapped in lead and hung from a fruit tree in the Old Temple’s burial ground, where it dangled for twenty years until the earl was allowed a Christian burial. Round underlined the irony of Geoffrey’s gravesite: ‘around the nameless resting-place of the great champion of anarchy, there was destined to rise, in later days, the home of English...