Norman Italy and it’s Place in Medieval History

Norman Italy and it’s Place in Medieval History

Posted by rhiandavies - Monday, 20 Nov 2023


To celebrate the new in paperback publication of Rethinking Norman Italy, authors Dr Paul Oldfield and Joanna Drell explore Norman Italy’s Place in medieval history.

The Rethinking Norman Italy volume is dedicated to Professor Graham A. Loud whose pioneering research has done so much to place Southern Italy and Sicily during the so-called ‘Norman’ era (the 11th and 12th centuries) into the mainstream of scholarship on the medieval world.

The contributors have all been supported and/or inspired by Professor Loud and his valuable studies, and we wanted to follow in his footsteps in this volume by emphasizing how integral the region was to wider understandings of the Middle Ages. Norman Italy is viewed, rightly so, as a frontier zone in the Mediterranean; a unique point where Muslim, Jewish, Latin and Greek Christian communities converged.

However, seen through a different optic the region is not solely one of boundaries but one of connections and centrality. Frontier and Centre are not mutually exclusive, and this volume emphasizes (and rethinks) how the region sat at the core of not only the Mediterranean but of the wider medieval world.We wanted to place the spotlight on an exploration of the many different and overlapping ways that southern Italy and Sicily contributed to, represented, and was impacted by broader developments, and thus to explore the region’s centrality.

We identified four thematic strands which allowed our contributors to explore and demonstrate the aforementioned objectives. Firstly, we thought it important to grapple with how history was written and recorded by examining ‘Historiographies’ (both modern and medieval). Collectively, the contributors (Abulafia, Russo, Metcalfe, D’Angelo) here demonstrated how individuals and groups in medieval Southern Italy and Sicily constructed and reinterpreted ‘historiographical’ materials, and how modern historians developed their own fluctuating interpretations from these sources, often fitting the region into wider scholarly constructs.

Our second strand focused on ‘Identities and communities’. Here, the contributors (Birk, Krumm, Tounta, and Oldfield) emphasized how certain group identities (for example religious, urban) formed and how far these identities and experiences were shared beyond, or were particular to, the region itself, and how those group identities came into contact with alternative ones.

The third strand explored ‘Religion and the Church’, with contributors (Pohl, van Houts, Geis, Martin) examining monasticism, simony, and marriage legislation and inviting us to think about parallels and divergences beyond Southern Italy and Sicily.

The final strand looked at ‘Conquering Norman Italy and beyond; here the contributors (Stanton, Davis-Secord, Murray) considered conquest, campaigning and diplomacy by the Normans and their successors both in Southern Italy and Sicily itself and the wider Mediterranean to show how these activities and events were situated on a macro-scale.

Each individual contribution can of course be read in isolation, but it is also hoped that engagement with the collective contributions in the volume will highlight Southern Italy and Sicily’s place in the wider medieval world. Far from peripheral, and more than a frontier, we hope that the volume emphasizes the region’s centrality and connectivity.

Alongside the work of Professor Loud, it is hoped that this volume encourages readers to study medieval Southern Italy and Sicily both in its own important right and as a valuable window onto the wider stage of the medieval world.

Rethinking Norman Italy Book cover on tile background

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