The Normans feature prominently in two models which explain the development of western Europe between c.1050 and 1200. Normans established themselves across Europe and maintained links with each other which covered the continent. They thus exemplify the expansionist movements of people which built networks which 'Europeanised' Europe for the first time.
Norman states in England and Sicily were, by western standards, unusually centralised, providing examples of the growth in the centre's ability to intervene in the localities, which, combined with the development of shared national consciousness, produced distinct 'nation-states'. The potential contradictions between the two foci of political affiliation - the diasporic community of the Norman world and the individual states within it - have at present been under-examined. Most scholars' geographic specialisms have encouraged a stress on the development of individual states and an understanding that 'assimilation' (and hence lack of a broader, well-defined Normannitas) was key to such development. The alternative explanations, namely that diasporic links might account for local variations and hence the forms of emerging states, or that links continued but played an as yet poorly understood political role, have not been seriously tested. Doing so within a project composed of four scholars with various regional interests will offer a fresh understanding of the Norman world as a whole, a means of reconciling two potentially discordant understandings of European history, new insights into medieval state-formation, and a historical perspective on modern diasporic communities' roles within states.
In contemporary historiography the gens Normannorum was memorialised to construct an image of a commonality of Norman identity, and of a unitary Norman world (e.g., Amatus of Montecassino; Orderic Vitalis). These descriptions disguise the diversity of Norman experience and practice, and in particular the very different political systems which emerged in the crusader states, in Sicily, on the southern Italian peninsula, and in northern England and southern Scotland.
Norman expansion into Mediterranean and 'Celtic' areas is now understood as a process in which accommodation was in practice reached with once competing local elites. Traditional étatist orthodoxies are now likewise contested by new narratives, which stress that the centre-periphery relationship was marked by negotiation with local interests, and produced not legally and institutionally homogenous states but polities in which local identities operated politically.
Both strands have come together in a series of studies of the medieval frontier, which have conceptualised frontiers as culturally and institutionally fluid zones where cross-border identities were often more important than relationships with a distant centre. There is, though, no consensus as to the modalities of assimilation: viz. how far identities rested on the adoption of existing local customs by incoming elites, as opposed to indigenous acceptance of novel cultural norms. Nor, as yet, have 'new' taxonomies of Norman states - their 'alternative nodal points', their 'multiplex nature', and their 'plurality and overlapping context' - been fully registered and tested. The same applies to how far identities were tied to specific 'frontier' locations and contingencies, on the one hand, and to Normandy or the wider diaspora, on the other.
Aims of 'The Norman Edge' Project
This project's contribution will be to clarify the balance between continuity and change, institutionally and culturally, in areas 'conquered' by the Normans, and the contribution of the 'conquerors' and the 'conquered' to regional identities which continue to the present day. The very diversity of Norman experience also provides an opportunity to explore how far variegated forms of cultural difference affected the process of state-formation. The project will likewise examine how far the propagation or idea of shared Normannitas shaped the particular forms of four different states in British contexts and the Norman Mediterranean.
The unique value of the Norman world as a focus of study lies in the nature of Norman expansion. In contrast to many areas, where expansion at the frontier was driven by individuals who had links to the centre that later claimed their conquests, Norman expansion in the Mediterranean saw the emergence of new polities to which Norman dukes had no claim, while control of Norman activity in middle Britain was contested between the English and Scottish crowns. Yet what prosopographical work has been done suggests that links between diasporic Normans existed throughout the period. The material and ideological resources with which Norman elites acted were thus determined not only by the relationship between the centre and the locality in which they operated, but also by their ability to exploit resources in Normandy and links across the Norman world.
The fluidity of political institutions, and cross-cultural encounters, at the Norman periphery in turn offered opportunities to develop novel means of gaining political advantage. The formation of institutions and identities at the Norman 'edge' was potentially thus not only a result of the interplay between a metropolitan centre and locality, but the outcome of individuals' differing abilities to exploit local, central and 'Norman-European' resources. This process needs to be examined within a framework that accepts that local variations of Normannitas were possible and that personal links existed across the Norman world, yet without necessarily arguing that either fact makes the Norman world an essential primary focus of socio-political affiliation. Despite the importance to European history of understanding all three levels of activity in this way, the breadth of such a study has placed it beyond the scope of any individual scholar, and makes a collaborative project essential.
A collaborative explanation of the political formation of the states of the Norman world, which takes into account recent work on state-formation and European identities, is thus long overdue. Such a project offers rich opportunities to understand medieval Norman communities and politics, the expansion of medieval Europe, and how modern diasporic communities might be placed in historical context.
The basic methodology adopted will be a sequence of thematically focused investigations area-by-area, each lasting one year and conducted by the RA with close guidance from the Investigator whose expertise lies in that area. A sequential approach is necessary because a thorough understanding of the micro-politics of each area is best achieved by such concentration, and because it best allows the progression of the project to be monitored.
The methodologies used will be similar in all areas. Extant narratives will be closely read to determine constructions of ethnicity, and these explained within both literary and political contexts. The initial reading of the narratives will also serve to establish an initial list of Normans present, using explicit descriptions as such, first names and toponyms distinctive to Normandy, as identifiers. Such a list will be enhanced by use of local charter evidence. The main purpose behind the examination of diplomatic material will be to trace accurately patterns of immigration, and the structural changes that occurred as a result, and thus to understand how Normans reached accommodations with indigenous populations. The final study for each area will be to cross-reference the list against extant Norman material, using toponymic indexes and printed charter collections as starting-points for such investigations. The RA will base himself in Paris during this time, using the Bibliothèque Nationale and municipal archives as appropriate. Experience from work on southern Italy suggests that such cross-referencing is often profitable, and leaves time to follow up references in French archives. Ultimately the objectives in each approach are to understand how local political networks and practices evolved with immigration, and to recover sufficient detail on those who immigrated to insert them into a broader context. Draft chapters of the final monograph will be produced at the end of each year's research, and scrutinised by the Standing Advisory Group.
Identifying Individuals and Networks
The recovery of socio-political networks will necessarily be driven by the lists of Normans present which emerge, and will concentrate on those networks defined by lordship, patronage, kinship, joint gift giving, spiritual kinship and charter witnessing. From present material it is clear that extended groups do exist. Members of the Crispin and Le Puiset families, for example, are known to have been present in all three areas. These two families thus form an initial focus for the study of kinship groups operating across political boundaries. Further study, however, must be driven by seeking to trace the origins of those identifiable from the regions studied, and cross-referencing their careers with those of other members of the family. This detailed prosopographical work is key to transforming our understanding the Norman world as a whole.
Work Schedule and Geographic Spread of Research
Northern England and Southern Scotland (Year 1)
The first year of the study will be devoted to northern England and southern Scotland. The principal narrative material will be contemporary English accounts of the North (Ailred of Rievaulx, Henry of Huntingdon, the Hexham chroniclers, Symeon of Durham). For Scotland and for parts of northern England printed charter collections exist. Yet much previously unexamined material also survives in private and public hands in Cumbria, and can be accessed daily from Lancaster. Examination of such material will not only deepen the project but also vastly improve comprehension of twelfth-century northern society in general. The RA will spend three weeks in France at the end of this year.
Italy (Year 2)
The second year will concentrate on southern Italy. The principal narrative accounts of this period (Geoffrey Malaterra, William of Apulia, Amatus of Montecassino, Falco of Benevento, Romuald of Salerno, Hugo Falcandus) are available in printed form and are well known to the RA, but will be re-evaluated for the project. He will concentrate his energies on a re-examination of the extensive archives of La Cava, which received patronage widely from both Normans and non-Normans, extending present work by situating individuals more firmly within the Norman world. He will also provide initial support for the PhD student's work on Calabria. Alex Metcalfe's unpublished transcriptions of the Arabic registers of Monreale, work on which was funded by the Lancaster Pamphlet Fund, provide a further source for understanding how state-building was influenced by local practice, and complements the work of the PhD student. It is envisaged that the RA will spend a month in Italy, and the PhD student up to six months. Again, three weeks will need to be spent exploring archives in Normandy at the end of the year.
Crusader States (Year 3)
The third year will be devoted to the crusader states. The principal material will be chronicles from northern French-speaking areas (Gesta Francorum, Robert the monk, Guibert of Nogent, Fulcher of Chartres, Baudri of Bourgeuil, Orderic Vitalis, William of Malmesbury, Ralph of Caen, Walter the Chancellor, William of Tyre) and edited cartularies of the Templars, the Hospitallers, the Benedictine house of Notre-Dame de Josaphat, the Augustinian community of the canons of the Holy Sepulchre, and the canons of Mt Sion, as well as the Regesta Regni Hierosolymitana . Such a study will be undertaken using printed records, but will necessitate a total of two months spent away from Lancaster to consult material housed at the British Library. Again, three weeks will be spent in France at the end of the year.
End of Research
On completion of the main research the RA will spend six months finalising his texts for the monograph. He will also develop the provisional list of Normans in these areas, changing it from a working tool which has been developing throughout the project into a register of use to other scholars.