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Book Review

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Because medieval conflict and violence have been so highlighted in the past decade by scholars such as David Nirenberg, Guy Halsall, R. I. Moore, Eve Salisbury, Warren C. Brown, Piotr G6recki, Mark D. Meyerson, Daniel Thiery, Oren Falk, and Peter Sarris, to name but a few, Jenny Benham's book is a welcome addition to the conversation. The author maintains a sensitive grasp of both the primary source material and the dy­namics of medieval diplomacy. The book itself though rests uncomfortably under an overly broad title (likely the publisher's decision) and on an overly narrow focus. In response to medievalists' Jack of attention to the history of peacemaking, Benham has sought to expand on Christopher Holdsworth's article ("Peacemaking in the Twelfth Century," Anglo-Norman Studies 19 (1997]) by moving into the next century and into a comparative study with the Danish kingdom. The Plantagenet mon­archs (Henry II, Richard I, John) shared similar dip­lomatic challenges with Valdemar I, Cnut VI, and Val­demar II (i.e., restoration of royal authority, conflicts with the Roman Catholic Church, and the problem of owing allegiance to a powerful neighboring monarchy), but the two kingdoms had vastly different resources. They also produced vastly different amounts of surviv­ing documentation, and this creates problems for the promised comparative history. The book is at its best when moving within the Anglo-French world, while the reader gets little real sense of the Danish experience. Furthermore, before the period under study there is negligible evidence for even the existence of Anglo­Danish diplomatic relations. So while any effort to ex­tend anglophone historiography beyond the Anglo­French territories should be heartily applauded, selecting the German Empire rather than Denmark would have produced a much richer comparative study-or at least the book would have had more pur­chase on representing European peacemaking practices as the title suggests.


Originally published as:

HUFFMAN, JOSEPH P. “Peacemaking in the Middle Ages: Principles and Practice.” American Historical Review 118, no. 2 (April 2013): 568–69. doi:10.1093/ahr/118.2.568