Charters and Historians of Britain and Ireland: Problems and Possibilities

  • David Bates


For many historical subjects up until at least the middle of the thirteenth century, charters are so important that the topic concerned could not feasibly be studied without them. In general, the vast majority are short documents which appear at first sight to be written in limited language and constricting form. The appearance of limitation is, however, utterly deceptive; this simplicity can, and usually does, conceal an enormous variety of transactions, conflicts and, at a deeper level still, emotions. With significant methodological changes now taking place in their study, recent work needs to be brought into focus and suggestions made for the future. It is important that these changes are assessed in relation to the British Isles and Ireland as a whole since, differences notwithstanding, their cultural interdependence in matters of documentary form creates both an appearance of uniformity and an illusion of sameness which need to be probed. For most of the period which I am writing about Normandy must also be brought into the discussion and reference made to wider regions of northern France.


British Isle Thirteenth Century Twelfth Century Cultural Interdependence Cultural Dissemination 
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© David Bates 2005

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  • David Bates

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