This is one of the circulating copies of S. B. Chrimes, C. D. Ross, and R. A. Griffiths (eds.), Fifteenth-Century England 1399-1509: Studies in Politics and Society, (Manchester University Press: New York, 1972), from the History Faculty library in Oxford. Most of that is pencil, but really, what the hell is that about? At least there isn’t any highlighter (in this volume at least). And now, I shall erase several years of ‘active reading’ with my trusty Stadtler. And I’m dead certain, no future scholars will feel cheated of some brilliant marginalia because of my act of restorative vandalism.
Thus is my relationship with Boydell and Brewer. My affection for Judd books, in contrast, is pure and unfettered. I would have your bastard book babies if that were possible in even some metaphorical way.
la.[Anne] Villanne, thou knowst no law of God nor man:
no beast so fierce, but knowst some touche of pittie.
Glo.[Richard] But I know none, and therefore am no beast.1
Richard’s attempt at a self-defence against Anne’s insult is at the same time a backhanded condemnation of human nature which, unique amongst all beasts, is capable of a total lack of pity. Richard also shows a heroic lack of tact since this whole exchange happens in the midst of Anne’s solemn procession with dead husband in train. Richard’s sweeping self-incrimination is all part of his strategy to woo Anne, newly widowed by his own plans. This is the genius of The Bard, in building such a monstrosity, in a few lines.
Now that recent archaeological revelations allow us to see the real Richard III, in bones if not in flesh, it’s still likely that Shakespeare’s version will remain the popular one. While I can’t muster the sort of enthusiasm this story gets from the History Blog, I confess some morbid fascination all the same. I did not have the energy to articulate that interest in the previous post (which was cleverly titled to fit with this one, something lost in the page design). If I can’t display the same enthusiasum, I can at least nurture some frustration.
Today’s frustrating reading experience comes from David Eltis, The Military Revolution in Sixteenth-Century Europe (London: I. B. Taurus, 1995). On it’s face, this is an argument in favour of back-dating the start of the “Military Revolution” thesis, argued in the first instance by Michael Roberts in 1955, as occurring in the early 17th century. Eltis may be correct in identifying the most significant changes in the practice of warfare back a century or so, but you feel like that’s almost a happy accident. Eltis gets where he was going despite himself.
Results from January are something of a mixed bag, but there is progress, measurable progress. February will look better because a bunch of things must be done that month. For now, this looks less impressive than it actually is.