This book examines the history of a prominent castle lord of eleventh-century Anjou, a man who has been referred to in numerous works but has never been carefully studied. Robert the Burgundian was an Angevin knight whom the counts of Anjou allowed to amass enormous power on the northwestern march of Anjou. Until he departed for the First Crusade in 1098 Robert was the central figure in Count Fulk Rechin's court. In contrast with many studies of the period, this work finds that Robert spent a long career as a major supporter of the counts of Anjou, rather than as someone undermining their authority. The author calls into question what is known about "feudal anarchy" in the eleventh century and finds that Robert and his descendants were indeed loyal to the count and were able to maintain Angevin power.
Remarkably, records of more than one hundred legal acts involving Robert, some based on his actual words, survive today. They reveal a richly textured life, establishing family connections, political alliances, and relations with the Church as Robert struggled to maintain his lands and position through invasion, civil war, and episcopal interdict. Of special interest is Robert's participation in the First Crusade after a personal visit by Pope Urban II, and his interaction with the counts and the effect this had on the development of the Angevin state.
The book will be of interest to students of French history and politics, medieval studies, and military history.
W. Scott Jessee is associate professor of history at Appalachian State University.
" Jessee has produced a magisterial political biography of Robert the Burgundian. This work demonstrates that historians of pre-Crusade Europe need not limit their research to intellectuals and major ecclesiastical administrators or to kings and dukes on the secular side. Jessee's talent for telling a cogent story built from bits and pieces of charter material in a highly readable style will make this work interesting not only to scholars but to the general reader as well."--Prof. Bernard S. Bachrach, University of Minnesota, and
Fellow of the Medieval Academy of America
"Jessee places Robert within the larger framework of Angevin history to illustrate how Robert used his position to further Angevin interests. . . . This work provides a useful counterbalance to Norman historiography."--Choice
"Jessee makes a significant contribution to ongoing efforts to replace stale arguments about eleventh-century 'anarchy' with nuanced discussions of aristocratic political practice and political culture and to abandon the theory of 'feudal revolution' in favor of subtler, more complex analyses of change in medieval European societies."--Albion
"One of the particular strengths of Jessee's book is that it provides us with the discussion of one, individual life--an accomplishment that is notoriously difficult for the minor aristocracy of the Central Middle Ages. Moreover, the author is able to create a compelling narrative of Robert's life based upon characters and chronicles. Other scholars have brought to light the lives of counts and countesses, and Jessee's study suggests that we may have the voices of their supporters restored to us as well. This book is an excellent example of how skillfully local history can be done, and how it can illuminate the larger issues that shaped medieval civilization. . . . Jessee's examination of the life of Robert the Burgundian contributes much to the study of medieval France. He has brought to life an individual who challenges our notions about eleventh-century lords and politics. . . ."--The Medieval Review
" I]interesting and measured treatment of the career of Robert the Burgundian. . . . Jessee's book is a thoughtful combination of attention to the sort of detail that an individual life provides and engagement with the broade