1st Edition

The Theory and Practice of Revolt in Medieval England

By Claire Valente Copyright 2003

    Medieval Englishmen were treacherous, rebellious and killed their kings, as their French contemporaries repeatedly noted. In the thirteenth through fifteenth centuries, ten kings faced serious rebellion, in which eight were captured, deposed, and/or murdered. One other king escaped open revolt but encountered vigorous resistance. In this book, Professor Valente argues that the crises of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries were crucibles for change; and their examination helps us to understand medieval political culture in general and key developments in later medieval England in particular. The Theory and Practice of Revolt takes a comparative look at these crises, seeking to understand medieval ideas of proper kingship and government, the role of political violence and the changing nature of reform initiatives and the rebellions to which they led. It argues that rebellion was an accepted and to a certain extent legitimate means to restore good kingship throughout the period, but that over time it became increasingly divorced from reform aims, which were satisfied by other means, and transformed by growing lordly dominance, arrogance, and selfishness. Eventually the tradition of legitimate revolt disappeared, to be replaced by both parliament and dynastic civil war. Thus, on the one hand, development of parliament, itself an outgrowth of political crises, reduced the need for and legitimacy of crisis reform. On the other hand, when crises did arise, the idea and practice of the community of the realm, so vibrant in the thirteenth century, broke down under the pressures of new political and socio-economic realities. By exploring violence and ideas of government over a longer period than is normally the case, this work attempts to understand medieval conceptions on their own terms rather than with regard to modern assumptions and to use comparison as a means of explaining events, ideas, and developments.

    Contents: Preface; Why study revolt? Theories of resistance 1215-1399; Prelude: 1215-1217, the crisis of Magna Carta; 1258-1265, the community of the Realm; Interlude: 1297-1301, successful reform; 1308-1327, transitions; Interlude: Edward III, the Peasants' Revolt; 1386-1399, personal agendas; Postlude: 1400-1415, Fragmentation and dynastic revolt; Conclusions; Appendix; Bibliography; Index.


    Claire Valente

    'Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above.' Choice Reviews 'Valente is to be congratulated for having written an important study that puts basic questions of medieval English kingship, magnate opposition, and political society into the spotlight of analysis... The book deserves attention because it is a thoughtful scholarly enterprise along lines that are at once highly significant and radically unfashionable.' Speculum '... shows a mastery of archival sources from the period and presents a convincing and thought-provoking narrative of the evolution of revolt.' The Medieval Review 'Valente offers a thoughtful analysis of an important aspect of political life, and her book should be of considerable interest to students and scholars.' Albion '... offers [..] a rich understanding of the dynamics and political structures of late medieval England and provides a nuanced reading of the interrelation of change, reform, resistance and personality which can only enhance our interpretation of the development of English government.' Parergon 'In her well-written and well-researched recent work, Valente challenges traditional ideas concerning the reasons behind baronial resistance between the years 1215 and 1415, and concludes that the nature of rebellion changed over the centuries in accordance with previously addressed grievances' becoming common rights... This book is an excellent resource for academic libraries and researchers with specific interests. It clearly provides the more advanced student of medieval English history with an evolutionary understanding of the working relationship between barons and kings.' Sixteenth Century Journal