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Editor's Introduction

Professor Davies worked on Lords and Lordship in the British Isles in the Late Middle Ages (henceforward Lords and Lordship) until shortly before his death on 16 May 2005. His last intervention was to make handwritten additions to a typescript of the first several chapters, including the insertion of references to work published as recently as 2005, and to write another chapter which had yet to be typed when he died. He had been compiling material for the project throughout the course of his career, but composition of Lords and Lordship seems to have begun in or around the year 2000. It was planned as a book of two parts, the first entitled ‘Lords’, the second ‘Lordship’. Work on the first part, at least as a first draft, appears to have been at an advanced stage by May 2005, and much of the second part had also been written, though at least one more chapter was in genesis bearing the working title ‘The Context of Aristocratic Lordship’.

The editorial intervention required to make a substantial but unfinished piece of work suitable for publication involved the abandonment of the two-part structure on account of the brevity of the second part in comparison with the first. It is hoped, however, that the essence of the division envisaged by the author—that the book should move from what lordship was to what it did—is still discernible. Both parts had introductory chapters, and these have been amalgamated to form the ‘Apologia’—the title of the original introduction to Part 1. The chapter ‘The Higher Aristocracy: Identity and Memory’ now also embraces a short chapter called ‘The Individual Lord’, while the chapter ‘The Lord at Home’ now incorporates another short chapter entitled ‘Household, Supplies, and Credit’. Apart from the consolidation of material across different chapters, the removal of occasional repetition, and the standardization of footnotes, the text is unaltered. Where new editions of works cited have appeared since Professor Davies ceased to write I have included them in the footnotes in closed brackets after the original citation: two examples are PROME and W. Childs’ edition of the Vita Edwardi Secundi. I have appended an ‘Additional Bibliography’ to each chapter, and the works thus cited appear in consolidated form at the end of the volume. With a handful of exceptions these additions date from 2000 and after, with the majority having been published within the last five years. The intention has not been to provide a complete bibliography on lordship in the late medieval British Isles, but rather to draw attention to some of the recent work from across the region which relates to the theme of the book.

Inevitable tension exists between the decision to keep interference with the original text to a minimum and the reasonable assumption that the author would have altered at least some of what is now published had he lived. Such alterations

might have been particularly marked in final versions of the ‘Apologia’ and the chapter ‘Dependence, Service, and Reward’. Professor Davies’s argument in the former that the concept of lordship has been neglected in the historiography of late medieval England is difficult to reconcile with the quantity and quality of work published on the subject—much of which he cites in the course of the book—especially for the fifteenth century. It can be noted that he uses the phrase ‘late Middle Ages’ to signify the chosen period of his analysis (1272—1422), and that the historiography of the reign of Henry VI, upon which he draws only occasionally, is particularly sensitive to issues of lordship. It can also be offered that his book is about the British Isles, not England, and that for Scotland and Ireland a ‘long fourteenth century’ as opposed to a ‘late Middle Ages’ perspective is historiographically meaningless. It remains the case, however, that historians of late thirteenth- and fourteenth-century England will demur from the suggestion that they have paid insufficient attention to aristocratic lordship in their analysis of English society and politics. Had Professor Davies decided to leave the ‘Apologia’ substantially as it now stands—and he had re-read it without making alterations to the text shortly before his death—then one must assume that he believed that something important remained to be said about the subject; one may hazard a guess that this was that while lordship as an expression of political power in particular circumstances had been thoroughly discussed since McFarlane, analysis of the institution of lordship as a concept and in more general practice lagged behind, not least because the failure to view it in a British Isles as opposed to an English setting had obscured and distorted its true essence.

The final chapter, ‘Dependence, Service, and Reward’, is problematic for some of the same reasons. It had not been typed by May 2005, and although fully footnoted by Professor Davies, was obviously in a less finalized state than the rest of the material. Historians of fifteenth-century England in particular will be puzzled at its suggestion that suspicion of ‘maintenance’ is misplaced, since they abandoned such suspicion long ago, while thanks in particular to the work of Christine Carpenter and Edward Powell, legal records have supplanted indentures as the preferred source for the study of aristocratic behaviour within the locality, across wider political society, and with the crown and its officers. The decision to include the chapter was made on the basis of what it contained and also because of the pointers it gave to what was still to come. While historians of late medieval England will find little in it that is original, it breaks new ground by opening up the issues indicated by its title to embrace the British Isles in toto and thus is absolutely true to the aim of the project as a whole. It also contains some indications as to the themes to be addressed in the chapter or chapters yet to be written: the role of aristocratic retainers in their own communities; the changing nature of lordship in a world in which it operated as only one of many bonds between superior and inferior; the demands placed upon lordship by its requirement to be ‘good’—in short, the crucial issue of the limitations of lordship in the rapidly changing British Isles of the late Middle Ages. It seems highly likely that the proposed chapter ‘The Context of Aristocratic Lordship’ would have had this issue at its heart.

A full account of Professor Davies’s career and an assessment of his importance as a historian can be found in Professor Huw Pryce’s memoir ‘Robert Rees Davies 1938—2005’, to be published in a forthcoming volume of Proceedings of the British Academy. This is not the place to offer a critical assessment of Lords and Lordship, but it seems appropriate to note some moments in the development of the ideas expounded therein. The interest in lordship in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, of course, stretches back to Professor Davies’s doctoral studies under the supervision of K. B. McFarlane, which commenced in 1959. (Professor Davies’s review of McFarlane’s Nobility, in Welsh History Review, 7 (1974—5) is instructive.) His first monograph, Lordship and Society in the March of Wales, 1282—1400 (Oxford, 1978), both expanded upon the subject-matter of his thesis and identified some of the key themes which are revisited and expanded upon in the present book. Professor Davies’s willingness to broaden the geographical area in which he examined the phenomenon of lordship beyond the Welsh March and England to include Ireland was first signalled in print in his essay ‘Lordship or Colony?’, in The English in Medieval Ireland, ed. J. F. Lydon (Dublin, 1984)—notably, the first work cited by Professor Davies in this book—and again in ‘Frontier Arrangements in Fragmented Societies: Ireland and Wales’, in Medieval Frontier Societies, ed. R. Bartlett and A. MacKay (Oxford, 1989). The argument for seeing the British Isles as a whole as a suitable arena for investigation of lordship and other themes was put forward in his ‘In Praise of British History’, in The British Isles 1100—1500: Comparisons, Contrasts and Connections, ed. R. R. Davies (Edinburgh, 1988). While the British Isles remained the focus of most of his publications in the years thereafter, his chronological centre of gravity tended to shift to a period which ended in the early fourteenth century, and the theme of lordship receded somewhat as issues such as ‘identity’, the rise of English power, and the idea of the medieval ‘state’ came more to the fore. Lords and Lordship, therefore, represents to some extent a return to concerns that had informed a lifetime of scholarship but which had yet to be tackled at full, monograph, length. Professor Davies’s early death precluded completion of that project, but enough survives to be published in a book that should meet his goals of encouraging debate and inspiring new questions about a crucial and fascinating historical subject.

I would like to thank Professor Robert Evans and Dr John Watts of Oxford University for inviting me to edit Lords and Lordship, Dr Watts and Professor Christine Carpenter for invaluable criticism of both the original text and my approach to editing it, and Mrs Stephanie Jenkins who typed the original text and at a later stage the final chapter. I would also like to thank Lady Davies, who kindly made available additional important material relating to the book.

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