The history of Plantagenet government, its nature, exercise and legacy, in the overseas possessions held by the English kings as dukes of Aquitaine in south-west France during the Middle Ages (1154-1453) has attracted a considerable body of scholarly publication and interest. The published primary sources for its study are, however, very incomplete, full of gaps and of variable quality.
One major gap lies within the period from the fourteenth, to the middle of the fifteenth, century. It is precisely for this period that the most important source for the subject - the Gascon Rolls (Rotuli Vasconie/C61 class in the UK National Archives) - remains unpublished in satisfactory or comprehensive form. The Gascon Rolls are among the most important of the great series of records relating to English government in the later Middle Ages yet to be edited and made available in their entirety. They represent the enrolment of executive orders, and other related records, created by the king-dukes for the government and administration of Aquitaine. They also provide detailed evidence for the king-dukes’ relations – political, diplomatic, financial, judicial, economic - with their Gascon subjects. The unpublished part of this substantial body of documentation, moreover, relates largely to the period of intensification of tension and conflict between England and France known as the Hundred Years War (1337-1453), culminating in England’s loss of Aquitaine after a three-hundred-year tenure of the duchy.
Since 2006 work has been ongoing to fill this gap, with the objective of producing an edition of the unpublished Gascon Rolls up until the last roll, drawn up in 1467/8. The edition currently under production consists of calendars (summaries) in English and in ultimately in French, of all entries on the rolls. In addition, the more significant and noteworthy entries will be rendered in full original text and translation, and some rolls will also be available in full transcription as well. The edition is being made available in a searchable electronic online form linked to high quality digital images of the rolls, thus making the records available worldwide. It is intended that a limited edition hardback version will also be produced in a series of volumes. It is hoped that publication in this manner will ensure the long-term preservation and availability of the edition.
Following several successful years of work on the production of an edition of the Gascon Rolls, Professor Anne Curry (Southampton), Dr Philip Morgan (Keele) and Paul Spence (King’s College London) were successful in their bid for funding of a new project specifically directed to the period 1361-1468. The project researchers were Dr Simon J. Harris (Keele) who worked with Dr Morgan on the rolls for 1361-1399; Dr Guilhem Pépin (Southampton) who worked with Professor Curry, with the kind assistance of Professeur Francoise Lainé (Bordeaux), on the rolls for 1399-1468; and Emma Tonkin and other colleagues at the Department of Digital Humanities (King’s College London) who worked with Paul Spence on research into the practical and theoretical implications of using technology for historical research. In addition the team is committed to publicising both the availability and value of this resource, and to the publication of a series of scholarly articles.
With the completion of the AHRC project, the longterm future of the overall project looked uncertain with the retirement of both Dr Vale and Dr Booth. However, the provision of the interim funding provided the opportunity for an exciting new page in the life of the Gascon Rolls project. Professeur Francoise Lainé and professeur Frédéric Boutoulle were successful in obtaining funding from the Laboratoire D'excellence (LABEX) - Unité mixte de recherche Ausonius - Université de Bordeaux 3, and from the Banque numérique du savoir d'Aquitaine (BNSA) financed by the Conseil régional d'Aquitaine and the Direction régionale des affaires culturelles (DRAC) for a one year project based at the Université Michel de Montaigne Bordeaux 3, under the direction of professeur Lainé, and on her retirement, of professeur Boutoulle, retaining Drs Harris and Pépin as the researchers and the technical team at the Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London.
The work of the project has been directed towards concluding the work of the earlier project, but more particularly the production of a French edition of the rolls, in addition to creating a French-language focus to the digital resource and carrying out research into new forms of editing, publishing and visualising historical materials from this period.
Following the completion of the AHRC funded project, the work of the project team was able to be extended by two substantial private donations. The first of these was made by Jonathan Sumption, and the second by Château Ausone (Saint-Émilion).
The project formally commenced on 1 October 2008 and was completed on 30 November 2011.
The initial work of the project team was to quickly establish the editorial framework. Dr Pépin focused on the source material for the project, and took the lead in the construction of the bibliography, and specialised in the identification of people and place in, and the institutions and history of Aquitaine. Drs Booth and Harris took the responsibility of producing the editorial guidelines (which are available on this website), and devoted a considerable amount of time to checking and standardising the calendars, and to elements relating to the identification of people and places in the British Isles and Ireland, and to the history and institutions of England in particular. Dr Vale, as lead investigator on the project took overall responsibility for the administration of the project.
The Department of Digital Humanities (formerly the Centre for Computing in the Humanities) at King’s College London co-ordinated the technical research development on the project, and initially focused on developing editing tools for the project researchers to use. The Department continues to be a research partner in the Gascon rolls project.
The work of the project team continues to be released initially on a staging site, with restricted access, and the final calendars will be released throughout the course of the projects.