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.
The Gascon Rolls (Rotuli Vasconie/C61 class in the UK National Archives) are among the most important of the great series of records relating to English government in the later Middle Ages. 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. Many rolls relate 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.
The edition production consists of calendars (summaries) in English of all entries on the rolls from 1317 to 1467, earlier rolls being available in printed form already. The edition is made available in a searchable electronic online form linked to high quality digital images of the rolls, thus making the records available worldwide.
Various universities and funding bodies have supported this project. Mention should also be made of 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 appear on this website.
Dr Paul Booth of the University of Liverpool received an award from the British Academy to fund a pilot project, on which Dr Maureen Jurkowski and Dr Jon Denton were research assistants.
The initial work of the project team was to 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 (available on the 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 rolls for the reign of Edward II were completed and progress made on some rolls for the period 1327 to 1359.
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.
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).
With the completion of the AHRC project, the long-term 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. Prof Francoise Lainé and Prof 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 Prof Lainé, and on her retirement, of Prof 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 at Bordeaux was directed towards concluding the work of the earlier project, but more particularly the production of 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.
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). 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 Prof Francoise Lainé (Bordeaux), on the rolls for 1399-1467; 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.
Entitled ‘Old wine in new bottles: English Gascony (1360-1453) for the Digital Future’, 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. 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.
During this phase almost all of the calendars of the period 1360 to 1467 were completed and placed on line, along with a number of blogs on key themes which were placed on the website by the editors and research assistants. In addition the KCL team developed maps and visualisations which provided new ways of looking at the data. This Leverhulme project 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.
As Dean of the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Southampton, Prof Curry was able to draw on her personal funding to ensure completion of the remaining calendars of the Leverhulme phase (1360-1467). She set about to find funds through her external activities to support completion of the calendars from 1330 to 1359. Some of these existed in full or part drafts but some were completely missing. Dr Guilhem Pépin, with the support of Prof Lainé, was able to complete all of the calendars for the 1330-59 period and to add all of the coding, as well as to review the whole run of calendars on the site. Dr Jonathan Mackman calendared four of the rolls which had not been dealt with in the AHRC phase, and Dr Simon Harris provided introductions and amendments to three of the part-complete calendars from that phase. With the technical support of Dr Paul Caton at KCL Digital Laboratory the remaining calendars have been placed on the site, in order to complete the full run from 1317 to 1467.
Friends of the National Archives (2018-19)
The final completion by Drs Pépin and Dr Mackman has been made possible through a generous award of the Friends of the National Archives.
Dr Paul Booth was involved in the Gascon rolls right from the start, being awarded a British Academy research grant to fund a pilot study in 2007. Senior Lecturer at the University of Liverpool, he was co-investigator in the AHRC funded period. He specialises in the history of Cheshire in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and the history of North West England more generally, bringing to light important and fascinating sources and encouraging and supporting local historians in their own researches. He has served as president and general secretary of the Chetham Society and on the councils of all of the regional local history societies, and stimulated the establishment of the Ranulf Higden Society, whose members have contributed to the Gascon roll project. His publications include The Financial Administration of the Lordship and County of Chester, 1271-1377 (1981) (with R.J. Dickinson) The Lordship of Man under the Stanleys: Government and Economy in the Isle of Man 1580-1704 (1996), Accounts of the Manor and Hundred of Macclesfield. Cheshire, Michaelmas 1361 to Michaelmas 1362 (2003), and (with P. Hill) Chester County Court Indictment Roll 1354-1377: Dealing with Serious Crime in Later Fourteenth-Century Cheshire (2019). He is Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the University of Keele.
Professor Frédéric Boutoulle is a professor of Medieval History at the University of Bordeaux and a member of the Ausonius research centre. Between 2016 and 2020 he was also vice president of the conseil scientifique (2016-2020) having previously been head of the department of History and the UFR Humanités of the University from 2012 to 2016. He is co-editor with Hélène Débax of the journal Annales du Midi. His research focuses on the Plantagenets and medieval Gascony, local and princely government, urban and rural societies, and village culture as well as representations of power in the Middle Ages. He has directed or co-directed several projects including the jurisdiction of Saint-Émilion (2011-2015), as well as the Historical Atlas of Bayonne, and the on-line edition of the Gascon rolls. He is co-author of Saint-Emilion. Une ville et son habitat médiéval (XIIe-XVe siècles) (2016), and Bayonne, Atlas Historique (Ausonius editions, 2019) in the series ‘Atlas Historiques des Villes de France’.
Professor Anne Curry first became interested in the Hundred Years War as a student at the University of Manchester. Her doctoral thesis, at what became Teesside University, focused on military organisation in Lancastrian Normandy 1422-1450, and stimulated her interest in muster rolls, which culminated in an AHRC-funded database, www.medievalsoldier.org. She has published extensively on the battle of Agincourt and was principal investigator of the Leverhulme-funded phase on the Gascon rolls, where she focused on the fifteenth century. Through her position as Dean of Humanities (2010-18) she was able to find funds at the University of Southampton to complete the whole run of Gascon rolls. She is currently working on the Norman rolls, a Chancery enrolment begun by Henry V at his landing in 1417, for which the Gascon roll project has proved extremely instructive.
Dr Simon Harris is currently a freelance researcher working on projects for Adlington Hall, Cheshire, and for the Société Jersiaise. He completed his PhD which was an examination of the emergence of a medieval Cheshire gentry family (the Leghs of Knutsford Booths) at Keele University in 1999. Since that time he has worked as a researcher on several high profile projects at the universities of Durham, York, Liverpool, Bordeaux III and Keele. In the period 2007 to 2009, he played a major role in the writing and submission of an application to the Arts and Humanities Research Council to fund the Gascon Rolls project, which resulted a £750,000 grant to the Universities of Oxford and Liverpool. He has continued to work on the various Gascon Rolls projects until 2019. His research interests focus on the gentry of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, Cheshire medieval court records, and English military organisation during the Hundred Years War.
Professor Françoise Lainé is an emeritus professor of Medieval History at the University of Bordeaux – Michel de Montaigne, and a former student of the prestigious École Normale Supérieure of Fontenay-aux-Roses. She has published on various topics throughout her career, from the lepers in Aquitaine to the archbishops and the clergy of the chapter of the cathedral of Bordeaux, the history of the Crown of Aragon in the 14th century, and above all, the Anglo-Gascon duchy of Aquitaine. Her book written with Chris Given-Wilson on the prisoners of the battle of Poitiers (2002) is a milestone for the study of this period of the Hundred Years War. She is currently working on the publication of obituaries of religious institutions and has already published the obituaries of the chapter of the cathedral of Bordeaux, of the chapter of Saint-Émilion and of the abbey of Clairac.
Dr Jonathan Mackman is an experienced historical researcher, who has contributed to a number of high-profile medieval and early-modern research, publication and cataloguing projects over the last two decades. As well as the Gascon Rolls, and research for a variety of authors and other private and public bodies, these have included the long-running 'Records of Lay Taxation' project, KCL's calendaring of the Fine Rolls of Henry III, the University of London's 'Londoners and the Law' project, and the University of York's 'The Northern Way' and 'England's Immigrants' projects. His main research interests lie in the political and administrative history of late-medieval England, and particularly in the history of Lincolnshire and the East Midlands, and he is currently a Trustee of the British Association for Local History.
Dr Philip Morgan was co-investigator in the Leverhulme period of funding, working on the rolls between the treaty of Brétigny and the end of the reign of Richard II. His doctoral work at University College London under the late Sir Rees Davies focused on late medieval Cheshire, leading to the publication of War and Society in Medieval Cheshire 1277-1403 by the Chetham Society in1987, and also an article 'Cheshire and the defence of the principality of Aquitaine' in the Transactions of the Lancashire and Cheshire Historical Society in 1979. His publications also include six county volumes of the Philimore edition of Domesday Book and a guide to its use. In recent years he has turned his attention to battlefield war memorials and the naming of battlefields (where his publications include 'The battlefield war memorial: commemoration and the battlefield site from the Middle Ages', Journal of War and Culture Studies, 4 (2012)), as well as to aspects of gentry society. He has served as editor of the Record Society of Lancashire and Cheshire and of the Local Historian, and head of the History Department at the University of Keele.
Dr Guilhem Pépin, who took his D Phil at the University of Oxford, is a specialist in the history of the duchy of Aquitaine (or Western Gascony) during the period of its union with the crown of England (1154-1453). He has published extensively on this topic and has also directed the publication of the proceedings of two international conferences which he organized, on Anglo-Gascon Aquitaine and on mercenaries during the Hundred Years War. Amongst other discoveries, he has proved the actual existence of the Bascot de Mauléon, a Gascon routier interviewed by Jean Froissart, and also revealed the existence of a strong Anglo-Gascon political identity. He is also a specialist on the two periods of the Black Prince’s personal government in Aquitaine (1356-1357 / 1362-1372). He has discovered several primary sources hitherto unknown, including an important letter of the Black Prince about the sack of Limoges in 1370. He has worked on the Gascon Rolls since the beginning of the on-line project in 2008 and has been active on all its phases, culminating in the completion of the project in 2019. He is currently working on the creation of websites dedicated to historical heritage.
Paul Spence is a Senior Lecturer in Digital Humanities at King's College London and has an educational background in Spanish & Spanish American studies. He led the ‘Digital Text’ research area in the Department of Digital Humanities from 2003 to 2010, when he was responsible for the development of XML-based and semantically aware frameworks for information retrieval and digital publication on over 30 research projects. His research currently focuses on digital publishing, global perspectives on digital scholarship and interactions between modern languages and digital culture. He leads the 'Digital Mediations' strand on the AHRC-funded Language Acts and World-making project (https://languageacts.org/).
Dr Malcolm Vale, Fellow of St John's College Oxford, was the driving force behind a project to create an on-line calendar for the Gascon rolls and was Principal Investigator in the AHRC-funded period. His interest began with his Oxford DPhil thesis, subsequently published as English Gascony 1399-1453. A Study of War, Government and Politics During the Later Stages of the Hundred Years' War (1970). The thesis, supervised by Pierre Chaplais, involving researches in the rich material for Gascon history not only in the (then) Public Record Office, but also in the provincial archives of South-West France which proved to be of great value and interest. Dr Vale has written extensively on Anglo-French history, the Hundred Years War and late medieval Europe. His extensive publications include Charles VII (1974), War and Chivalry: Warfare and Aristocratic Culture in England, France and Burgundy at the End of the Middle Ages (1981), The Origins of the Hundred Years War: The Angevin Legacy 1250-1340 (1996), The Ancient Enemy: England, France and Europe from the Angevins to the Tudors (2007), The Princely Court: Medieval Courts and Culture in North-West Europe, 1270-1380 (2001), Henry V: the Conscience of a King (2016), and A Short History of the Renaissance in Northern Europe (2020).