The Gascon Rolls project 1317-1468

For much of the later Middle Ages, south-western France (Aquitaine) was under English rule. Every year from 1273 a ‘Gascon roll’ was drawn up by the English royal administration, recording a wide range of business and mentioning many people and places. The rolls were continued until 1468 even though the area was lost by the English in 1453, and are to be found today in The National Archives at Kew in class C 61.

In 2009 a project began to produce an on-line calendar of the rolls. This was funded by the AHRC and led by Dr Malcolm Vale (Oxford), Dr Paul Booth (Liverpool), and Paul Spence (Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London). The site currently contains full calendars for the last ten years of the reign of Edward II (1317-27), and for many years of the first half of the  reign of Edward III, produced in this project.

In 2012 funding was gained from the Laboratoire d’excellence LaScArBx, the Banque Numérique des Savoirs d’Aquitaine, the Château Ausone (Saint-Émilion) and Jonathan Sumption. This has enabled the continuation of the project and the development of a parallel French site, coordinated by Professor Frédéric Boutoulle and Emeritus Professor Françoise Lainé (Bordeaux) and Paul Spence.

‘Old wine in new bottles: English Gascony (1360-1453) for the Digital Future’.

Funding was awarded by the Leverhulme Trust for a two year project from 1 May 2013, led by Professor Anne Curry (Southampton) and Dr Philip Morgan (Keele), and Paul Spence (King’s College London). It also involved the active collaboration of the Université Bordeaux Montaigne (formerly Université Michel de Montaigne-Bordeaux 3) and UMR Ausonius. Research associates Dr Simon Harris and Dr Guilhem Pépin - the former being helped voluntarily by Nigel Coulton, a skilled palaeographer and Latinist, and the latter by Françoise Lainé, emeritus professor of the Université Bordeaux-Montaigne - and a research team based at the Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London, all involved in the 2009 and 2012 projects, also worked on the Leverhulme project. The project also continue its association with the Ranulf Higden Society, a group of learned individuals whose work editing one of the earlier Gascon Rolls lay in part behind the ideas for the original projects, and whose full editions will appear on this website.

The Leverhulme project began in 1360 since in that year the duchy of Aquitaine was transferred to the English crown in full sovereignty, following Edward III’s successes in the Hundred Years War. This made it a lordship of the English crown akin to Ireland. Even though the English suffered a reversal of their fortunes from 1369 onwards, the core of the duchy, Gascony, remained part of the English polity until 1453 when it was captured by Charles VII, an event taken to mark the end of the Hundred Years War. Was this England’s first empire?

The Leverhulme project combined historical analysis of the phenomenon of proto-empire with research into web-based modelling, analysis and presentation of medieval texts. Hence the title: ‘Old wine’ (Gascony was the main source of wine in England) into ‘new bottles’ (all the exciting things which can be done through advances in digital humanities).

By combining the efforts of historians and digital scholars alike, the project aimed to reach wide international audiences through a multifaceted approach combining text, maps, images, and interpretation. It also aimed to establish new norms and tools for editing historical sources, promoting the sharing and re-use of the data by other historical projects worldwide.

The future

Thanks to the various awards, and to ongoing work, this site will house in due course a full calendar edition of the Gascon rolls between 1317 and 1468 (C61/72 to C 61/144), with transcriptions and translations of selected full rolls and single entry fragments.

The calendar will be provided alongside high quality digital images of the original rolls provided by The National Archives (TNA). We also provide introductions to each roll as well as scholarly apparatus, indexes and a search engine whose results can be filtered by various ‘facets’. We have written contextual blogs and through the scholarly annotations to the rolls, have been able to cast light on the people, places and themes in the history of English Gascony.

The integrated digital editing & publication framework created in the first phase of the project was expanded during the Leverhulme phase to incorporate geospatial analysis, innovative visualisations of the highly structured historical data and facilities to connect to and from other digital historical projects. The research at King's College Digital Humanities has served to reflect on the state of historical editing in the digital age, and to explore new publishing metaphors and platforms.