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From Memory to Written Record: England 1066-1307 Paperback – 10 Aug 2012
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Reviews of the first edition:
"A tour–de–force, a scholarly work which is genuinely hard to put down, and which breaks new ground in its approach." Journal of Legal History
"Thought–provoking and wide–ranging . . . one can assert confidently that it is one of the most exciting books on medieval English history to appear in recent years." History
"Many familiar assumptions about the medieval world will have to be reconsidered in the light of this book. It is impossible to convey its range or the variety of its implications, but it is possible to insist on its importance." History Today
"Clanchy′s work will stand as a remarkable piece of scholarship and as a massive contribution to our understanding of the medieval world." Journal of Library History
Reviews of the second edition:
"Just as ′From Memory to Written Record′ was the touchstone for the revolution in the study of medieval literacy and power in the 1980s, the second edition will be a sustaining forece in the continuing revolution of the 1990s′. " Patrick J Geary, University of Notre Dame
"′From Memory to Written Record′ is one of the those seminal works that shape the direction of the next generation of historical and social thought. This second edition will remain one of the major works on the medieval world for many decades to come." Norman F Cantor, Late of New York University
Michael Clanchy′s widely–acclaimed study of the history of the written word in the Middle Ages remains a classic work in medieval studies. In this third edition Professor Clanchy presents his latest thinking on the subject in a new introduction covering recent work on literacy studies. He has also updated the further reading section and revised the references to take account of recent publications. These changes preserve the coherence of the original argument whilst also ensuring the book remains current for a new generation of scholars and students.
After nearly four decades in print this monument of twentieth–century historiography has lost none of its imaginative and rhetorical power. Imbued with human insight and unrivalled in its deep understanding of the record– and narrative sources of post–Conquest England, Professor Clanchy s book continues to educate, inspire, and challenge its many readers. The third edition brings the volume up to date for a new generation and will be welcomed by teachers and researchers across and beyond the Anglophone world. Julia Crick, King s College London
From Memory to Written Record is half an invaluable handbook of sources still without any modern competition and half an imaginative investigation of the complex mix of surviving oral modes and the way they coexist with and are transformed by the written word. Enjoy and learn! Paul R. Hymns, Cornell University
"In 1979, Clanchy′s From Memory to Written Record launched an entirely new field of enquiry. Taking full account of the wealth of new research it stimulated, this third edition will be equally indispensable to the next generation of students and teachers. Julia M H Smith, University of GlasgowSee all Product description
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What we also have now is that social media’s appetite for information exceeds its capacity to digest it, so it sells it on. One also might say of the second sentence, that it applies to both sides of the ‘House’ that the practice of making promises is in danger of becoming a substitute for action. Apart from Clanchy being a Medieval Historian, the choice of England as a reference point for his discussion on what was also happening in Europe, was because of it location: to the north Scandanavia (where the Northmen had come from), to the west, the unconquered by Rome world of the Celts represented by Ireland (the Welsh will say that Rome never really conquered them either!); to the east the Germanic (Anglo-Saxon) inheritance, and to the south, the Romance and Latin influences. What I found both engaging and stimulating was the way in which ‘sacred cows’ were challenged. C.S. Lewis’s seminal ‘The Discarded Image’ raised a lot of questions about the conventional wisdom regarding the advances wrought by the Renaissance and percolated through the Reformation, were accompanied by the desire to distance the (Renaissance) present from the Medieval past. A humanistic perspective had existed long before Coluccio Salutati and Poggio Bracciolini (of the de Medici bureaucracy) claimed it as Italian. Much of Clanchy’s clearly ‘felt’ perspective – are historians not allowed to ‘feel,’ resonates with Lewis’s. He points out that to use medieval in a pejorative sense – something we have also acquired from the Renaissance, is to demean the intelligence of the bulk of the so called illiterate population. The last sentence of chapter 1 ‘Memories and Myths of the Normal Conquest,’ simply says: ‘How everyone’s life had come to depend on reading and writing is the subject of this book.’
During Alfred the Great’s time, legal documents were written in part Latin (the very word literate means etymologically, ‘to know Latin.), and in part Old English (so that the application of the ordinance could be read aloud). The Norman Conquest (some 150 years later) just added French to the mix, but by the time of Chaucer (d. 1400) the French spoken at the court was not the spoken French of France (a point picked up in Shakespeare’s Henry V), and the English that was spoken at large was dialectal. There is not a conventional bibliography, but there is a list organized by chapters, for further reading, the running bibliography is dealt with by footnotes which I find is much more reader friendly. This is obviously not a quick read type of book, but I doubt that it was intended to be, but it is very readable, and Clancy is very good at prompting us to question what we have simply accepted, and not really questioned, and this was one sustained effect of reading this book, made it both challenging and enjoyable.
Over the years I have checked Amazon periodically and was delighted to find that a new edition has been printed, and finally to be able to destroy my guilty photocopied secret.
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The only complaint I have with this third edition (which, however, I decided didn't merit being so grinchy as to remove an entire star) is one that will primarily be of interest to scholars/librarians, and especially those who already own the second edition and are contemplating updating it to the third. To them I would say that while the third edition definitely is worth getting, it would be a very good idea, before donating or selling your second edition (or instead of doing so), either not to do so, or to make a xerox of the "Further Reading on the History of Literacy" section at the end of the second edition. This is because the third edition contains only an extremely brief "Select Further Reading" section which, while it's very useful in containing almost entirely the most recent scholarship (=that published since the second edition), is really only the equivalent of two pages long if you take into account the enormous blank spaces within sections, and thus jettisons the entire 8-page excellent and detailed "Further Reading" section in the second edition. Furthermore, it also jettisons entire topics covered within the second edition's further reading section, such as "Literacy in History in General", a section especially useful to those who are interested in the book not because they're historians of medieval Britain, but because they're interested in the history of the book/manuscript/writing/literacy etc. more generally. I assume the reason for the deletion of this extremely useful section was either that the author, who retired a number of years ago, decided that the reader would be better served by turning to the bibliographies of the more recent literature he cites in the further reading section of the third edition, or (probably less likely) that the publisher didn't want to pay for the several extra pages a more extensive bibliography would have taken up. I do understand these possible rationales, but just wanted to mention the issue, since it does mean that the scholar will, if he or she decides to buy just the third edition, have to either consult the second or do a fair amount more extra research to learn about the scholarly literature cited in the second.