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The Crisis of the Twelfth Century


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Table of Contents

Preface vii List of Illustrations xvii Usage and Conventions xix Abbreviations xxi I: Introduction 1 II: The Age of Lordship (875-1150) 22 Old Order 25 The Quest for Lordship and Nobility 31 Constraint, Violence, and Disruption 41 Cultures of Lordship 68 III: Lord- Rulership (1050-1150): The Experience of Power 84 The Papacy 87 West Mediterranean Realms 95 Leon and Castile 95 In Sight of the Pyrenees 104 Imperial Lands 111 Bavaria 116 Lombardy 120 France 128 Anjou 129 Flanders 142 Northern Kingdoms 155 Capetian France 158 Norman England 168 IV: Crises of Power (1060-1150) 182 Uneasy Maturity 183 Dynastic Anxiety 183 Anxious Fulfillments 191 The Church 197 Troubled Societies 212 The Saxon Revolt and Its Consequences (1073-1125) 213 Castled France (ca. 1100-1137) 229 Troubles on the Pilgrims' Road (1109-36) 243 Flanders: The Murder of Charles the Good (1127-28) 259 England: "When Christ and His Saints Slept" (1135-54) 269 An Age of Tyranny? 278 V: Resolution: Intrusions of Government (1150-1215) 289 Great Lordship in Prosperity and Crisis 293 "Shadows of Peace" 306 Aquitaine: Princes of Ill Repute 308 Anjou: The Tyranny of Giraud Berlai 310 A Tyrannical Bishop(?): Aldebert of Mende (1151-87) 312 The Justice of Accountability 316 The Accountability of Fidelity (1075-1150) 322 Prescriptive Accountancy 325 Towards an Accountability of Office (1085-1200) 328 A Dynamic of Fiscal Growth (ca. 1090-1160) 329 Towards a New Technique (ca. 1110-75) 336 en gland: pipe rolls and exchequer 336 flanders: the grote brief and its origins 339 sicily: pluri- cultural conservancy? 343 catalonia: from exploitation to agency 345 Constraint, Compromise, and Office 349 Charters of Franchise: Some Lessons 350 Thresholds of Office 358 In Sight of Our Lady's Towers 362 Working with Power 369 Catalonia 371 England 378 France 398 The Roman Church 415 VI: Celebration and Persuasion (1160-1225) 425 Cultures of Power 430 Sung Fidelity 431 Courtly Talk 438 Learned Moralising 445 Expertise: Two Facets 456 Knowing 457 Knowing How 462 Pacification 471 The Capuchins of Velay 475 Politicised Power 484 The Crisis of Catalonia (1173-1205) 499 The Crisis of Magna Carta (1212-15) 515 States and Estates of Power 529 The States of Troubled Realms 530 The Great Lordship of Consensus 541 Towards Estates of Associative Power 548 Towards a Parliamentary Custom of Consent 556 VII: Epilogue 573 Glossary 583 Bibliography 587 Index 641

About the Author

Thomas N. Bisson is the Henry Charles Lea Professor of Medieval History Emeritus at Harvard University.


"Was the 'old public order' of Charlemagne and his successors so public and so ordered? Was the subsequent regime so close to anarchy? Bisson adds to this traditional account by thinking deeply about the benefits and disadvantages of government. He is very aware of the inhumanity of the past he studies... Confronting this world of hunter and hunted, Bisson is inspired by attractively humane impulses. And he looks for public, accountable, official remedies for suffering and oppression."--Robert Barlett, New York Review of Books "For some time, medievalists have associated the 12th century with 'renaissance.' ...Thomas Bisson offers a radically different view, ... [and] makes the case with considerable brio and insight...A tremendously powerful vision of the period. Bisson's vision of a dark 12th century can be questioned [but] that does not mean it should be dismissed. The Crisis of the Twelfth Century will be essential reading for all medievalists."--John H. Arnold, Times Higher Education "The story is an old one, but so many-sided as to invite constant retelling from new angles. Bisson has found a new angle, and writes with prodigious sweep and learning."--Alexander Murray, London Review of Books "The sustained argument is a fascinating one, the attractions of the book increased by sections devoted to rather different geographical areas from those that dominate most surveys of medieval Europe. [Bisson's] effort to combine the traditionally separate fields of political and cultural history in explaining the 'origins of government' is admirable."--John Hudson, BBC History Magazine "In an era when bold syntheses are still too rare, Bisson has taken on 12th-century government in the whole of western Europe, from Poland to Spain, to show with unusual clarity how the period was one of violence and exploitation and how 'government' was inseparable from the exercise of personal power. Bisson's take is controversial and will stir up opposition (it's part of the attraction of the book), but his vision, and his delight in showing patterns of real structural change, make his work refreshing; and I found his nearly 600 pages hard to put down."--Chris Wickham, History Today "This is a book which scholars of central medieval power and society will have to ponder for a long time to come. Its sheer breadth, its ambition and the lightness with which it wears its scholarship all demand attention... Few other books manage to use Europe's regional variation so elegantly to elaborate on coherent pan-European themes whilst avoiding any impression that developments were inevitable. Its contribution to the debate over changes in lordship and government will be massive. It will undoubtedly serve to pull historical interest back to the centre of medieval experience."--Theo Riches, Reviews in History "The Crisis of the Twelfth Century is an unparalleled cultural history of power in medieval Europe, and a monumental achievement by one of today's foremost medievalists."--Spartacus Educational "[T]he overall arc of the work's argument is impressive... Bisson has provided historians with an impressive work that will hopefully spark new discussions of medieval lordship, politics, and government."--Jonathan R. Lyon, H-Net Reviews "This is a deeply learned book, not for the faint of heart or the unsophisticated reader. Bisson presumes a thorough and comprehensive knowledge of the events and close readings of a wide range of texts. However, the astute reader will be rewarded with an illuminating comparative study of a pivotal point in the history of the European Middle Ages."--Theresa Earenfight, Journal of the Review of Politics "Bisson's book ... sweeps aside still-prevailing assumptions of teleology in political and constitutional history and forces historians of different areas of Europe to battle against any parochial instinct. That it raises so many questions is an indication of its considerable contribution to and departure from existing histories of governments and states of the central Middle Ages."--Alice Taylor, Speculum "Bisson ... is to be commended ... for so effectively setting the agenda for future historians."--William Chester Jordan, Journal of Law and History Review "This book reinforces Thomas Bisson's position as one of the most important contemporary historians of the Middle Ages... Few have the knowledge of the period enjoyed by Bisson... [T]his sophisticated, nuanced and subtle book will amply reward the reader's effort."--Peter Fleming, Labour

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