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Feudal Scotland

Published in History Today

The Anglo-Norman Era in Scottish History, by G. W. S. Barrow. 232 pp

(Clarendon Press, 1980)

England was conquered by the Normans; Scotland was not. The basic problem was not one of replacing the old nobility, but of absorbing old and new in a feudal order. It comes as a surprise to realise that a strong element in the new Anglo-Norman aristocracy came not only from the Honour of Huntingdon but from Yorkshire and from the West Country, notably Somerset. The guide lines are clearly etched. By the end of the twelfth century the concept of a regnum Scotiae was a commonplace; in the thirteenth century arguments in favour of normality of feudalism are overwhelming. There is a wealth of information on place-names and on personal names. The eye is drawn time and time again to the men, to flesh and blood, and to the real places. Speculation is not completely excluded. We shall never know what England would have been like if instead of being conquered by the Normans it 'had merely been engulfed by continental influence. But a glance north might clearly help. Professor Barrow presents us with an attractive and fruitful set of Ford lectures which add depth to the understanding of the colonising feudal process that led to the creation of the regnum in Scotland.

Henry Loyn

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