2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
With only one, single-sentence "editorial review" in Medium Aevum, the semi-annual journal of the Society for the Study of Mediaeval Languages and Literature, I should have been a bit more cautious about ordering this very expensive book ($[...]). However, as the "product description" seemed to indicate it would contain information relevant to my own research (the last native Prince of Wales, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd), I purchased it anyway.
Almost immediately upon reading it, several problems arose, all of which are inexcusable in a scholarly work.
Inconsistency of spelling of names in both the introduction and in the index makes it difficult if not impossible to know if they are referring to the same person, e.g., John Warenne/John de Warenne, Gruffyd ap Gwenwynwyn/Griffith de la Pole, Llywellyn ap Griffith/Llewlyn ap Gruffyd, to name but three. Even if these spelling variations reflect their listings in primary and secondary sources, the author should have (1) annotated each variation as belonging to the same individual; or (2) adopted a convention to standardize the spelling for the sake of clarification and ease of reference for the reader. The case of Gruffyd ap Gwenwynwyn and Griffith de la Pole is instructive. This Welsh lord of Powys Wenwynwyn (Southern Powys) began using the Norman spelling to reflect his allegiance to the English Crown (Edward I). When looking in the index for information about this one castle owner, you would have to know to look under both "Pole" and "Gwenwynwyn" to find all references to this one individual (whose correct Welsh spelling, by the way, is Gruffudd). Ditto Llywelyn ap Gruffudd (the correct Welsh spelling). Two variations of his name appear in the index and text (as listed above). John de Warenne is referred to in the text as "John Warenne" (pg. 13) but in the index as "de Warenne."
Even more problematic is the author's admitted assumption that a 30-year span between instances of the same name recurring in relation to the same castle belongs to two different individuals. Rather than make such an assumption, which serves no purpose except to absolve the author from further research, it would have been more honest to apply the "precautionary principle," particularly given the inconsistency of name spellings used, and simply state "we don't know." Further, thirty years is 1½ generations, barely long enough for an heir to have reached the age of majority (14 in the 13th Century) before inheriting (assuming, of course, that the father is dead, which is another dangerous assumption).
But the most disturbing aspect which has specific relevance for my own research is the lack of scholarship shown in this paragraph from the introduction on pg. 23: "The thirteenth century was the last period to see major castle building by the native Welsh princes. Between 1282 and 1299 nine castles can be said to have built [sic] by them, and it was just such castle building, at Dolforwyn (Montgomery), that helped contribute to the start of the Welsh wars of Edward I."
The factual and historical inaccuracies of the second sentence boggle the mind.
1. The last native Prince of Wales, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, was killed in 1282 by English soldiers, and then his brother, Dafydd, self-proclaimed Prince of Wales upon Llywelyn's death, was captured and killed six months later. There were no other "native Welsh princes" after them. Which princes conducted the "major castle building" in Wales during this 17-year period?
2. And which "nine castles" does the author attribute to these mysterious princes? There is no footnote documenting the castles' names or whereabouts.
3. Aside from the author's imprecise language which implies that Dolforwyn castle's construction took place between 1282 and 1299 (construction actually began in 1273 by Llywelyn ap Gruffudd), it is equally inaccurate to imply with the same grammatical imprecision that the start of Edward I's Welsh wars began in 1282. The first one took place in 1277, the second and final one in 1282. Additionally, the first Welsh war was the culmination of highly complex legal tensions between Llywelyn and three powerful Marcher lords (Clare, Bohun and Mortimer), acting as Edward's regents between 1272 (when Edward's father, Henry III, died) and 1274 (when Edward finally returned to England from France for his official coronation) - regents who forbade Llywelyn to build at Dolforwyn. Edward's refusal to settle the matter one way or another upon his return to England only escalated tensions. Also in 1274, Edward I gave sanctuary to Gruffudd ap Gwenwynwyn and Llywelyn's traitorous brother, Dafydd, after a failed assassination attempt on Llywelyn's life. These are but two of several complicating factors that led to Llywelyn's refusal to perform homage and fealty to Edward after the latter's coronation, as well as Llywelyn's refusal to continue payments to the Crown as specified in the 1267 Treaty of Montgomery. Intractability on both sides of these and other issues was the cause of the first Welsh War of 1277, of which the building of Dolforwyn castle was but a very small part.
Sadly, the above makes me leery of the veracity of the rest of the book's contents without painstakingly checking each item for myself. However, it is certainly enough for me to return it to the seller and get my money back.