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The medieval ‘marches’ of Normandy and of Wales


Lieberman, M (2010). The medieval ‘marches’ of Normandy and of Wales. English Historical Review, 125(517):1357-1381.

Abstract

This article explores the striking links and parallels which existed between the frontiers of Normandy and of Wales, particularly between 1066 and 1204. It takes its cue from the fact that both frontiers were identified as ‘marches’ at that time. It argues that while the frontier of Normandy was not a precursor of the March of Wales, experiences made by the Normans on their ‘home frontier’ did help shape their contribution to the making of the Welsh March. Moreover, this essay contends that during the twelfth century, the borders of Normandy and of Wales evolved, in important respects, along similar lines. Thus, both ‘marches’ came to be characterized by an exceptional density of castles and uniquely long-established castellan dynasties controlling compact lordships (to the best of their ability). By 1204, these features had helped foster the notion that the marches of Normandy and Wales were similar kinds of frontiers, despite the differences that undeniably existed between them. By implication, the famous liberties of the Welsh Marcher lords were, at first, irrelevant to the concept of the ‘march’ of Wales. This supports Professor Sir Rees Davies’s view that the Welsh Marcher liberties only became an issue in the thirteenth century. Finally, therefore, this article argues that it was the very features shared by the Norman and Welsh ‘marches’, rather than claims to immunity, which first paved the way for the inclusion of the conquest lordships of southern Wales within the region identified as Marchia Wallie.

Abstract

This article explores the striking links and parallels which existed between the frontiers of Normandy and of Wales, particularly between 1066 and 1204. It takes its cue from the fact that both frontiers were identified as ‘marches’ at that time. It argues that while the frontier of Normandy was not a precursor of the March of Wales, experiences made by the Normans on their ‘home frontier’ did help shape their contribution to the making of the Welsh March. Moreover, this essay contends that during the twelfth century, the borders of Normandy and of Wales evolved, in important respects, along similar lines. Thus, both ‘marches’ came to be characterized by an exceptional density of castles and uniquely long-established castellan dynasties controlling compact lordships (to the best of their ability). By 1204, these features had helped foster the notion that the marches of Normandy and Wales were similar kinds of frontiers, despite the differences that undeniably existed between them. By implication, the famous liberties of the Welsh Marcher lords were, at first, irrelevant to the concept of the ‘march’ of Wales. This supports Professor Sir Rees Davies’s view that the Welsh Marcher liberties only became an issue in the thirteenth century. Finally, therefore, this article argues that it was the very features shared by the Norman and Welsh ‘marches’, rather than claims to immunity, which first paved the way for the inclusion of the conquest lordships of southern Wales within the region identified as Marchia Wallie.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of History
Dewey Decimal Classification:900 History
Language:English
Date:December 2010
Deposited On:15 Mar 2011 06:39
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 14:53
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN:0013-8266
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1093/ehr/ceq342

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