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Even though Simon Sudbury's archiepiscopacy was relatively short, it was during extremely turbulent times in English society, culminating in his murder at the hands of the rebels during The Great Revolt. As one of only three registers that have been published from fourteenth-century Canterbury archbishops, this is a valuable scholarly work because it contains material on a broad range of topics, from day-to-day administration of the see to material on national and international political and ecclesiastical events, including war between England and France.
This calendared edition provides translations in English of the register's predominantly Latin and Anglo-Norman (minority of the Testaments) entries under the headings: Memoranda; Testaments; Institutions; Ordinations, and Royal Writs. There is a very brief but helpful introduction that looks at the manuscript itself, Sudbury's parentage and career within the Church hierarchy, the development of relationships between the see and the papacy, and matters relating to exercising his role as archbishop. A further helpful introductory piece by Jane Sayers precedes the Testaments section, highlighting the value of these records because they predate the creation of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury by Sudbury's successor where such wills would be proved from 1382 onwards.
Numerically, the largest section comprises entries under Memoranda, providing extensive materials on the management of the see and archiepiscopal relationships. Moreover, for those interested in heresy, especially the role of Wyclif, during this crucial time for the Church in England, there are several important entries. Equally, these 54 wills from the higher members of lay and ecclesiastical society, including royalty, offer a major resource for those studying subjects such as late medieval piety and charity, funerary and commemorative rituals, in addition to ideas about material culture in domestic and church settings. In this section is the testament of Edward, Prince of Wales, as well as (and at the other extreme within this section of late medieval English society) the testament of Katherine, widow of a knight from the diocese of Chichester. Indeed, this is one of eight testaments made by women, offering a useful if small corpus of materials for a period when there exist few comparable sources from English noblewomen.
As the introduction explains, rather than rigidly following the order of Sudbury's Register, the section on Royal Writs is presented separately in this published volume. This is a sensible editorial intervention and questions that might be posed about the order of the original manuscript addressed in the introduction. Also included in the introduction is a short note on the hands, although the editors have so far only identified two of several seen within the original manuscript.
Even though some individual documents or document extracts have been published elsewhere, having an English-language summary of all entries in the register with every place and personal name and date means that it is an invaluable primary resource for a wide range of late medieval scholars studying Kent and the southern province of Canterbury, as well as archiepiscopal administration in general. Also helpful are the detailed and wide-ranging editorial notes in the main text, in addition to the extensive footnotes, while the index contains not only people and places but has a further section on topics.
In addition to its use for professional historians in their own research, the volume has potential uses in undergraduate teaching concerning the state of the late medieval Church in a range of fields. As noted, heresy is one such topic, but the archbishop's hierarchical role vis-à-vis certain religious houses could be exemplified for students using materials located in this volume. Similarly, the sections on Institutions and Ordinations, with entries in Memoranda, provide data which might be deployed to illustrate themes such as ecclesiastical patronage, clerical careers, longevity of service and questions surrounding topographical and social mobility among churchmen in post-Black Death society and a subsequent period of continuing high mortality.
Consequently, this book is a very welcome addition to those produced by the Canterbury & York Society for a broad range of scholars and university lecturers in medieval studies. Although perhaps of greatest use for those working on the diocese of Canterbury, there is much for those examining the late medieval southern province, as well as more generic studies on archiepiscopal registers. I would therefore recommend its inclusion within personal and institutional collections. It is a valuable resource, which has been edited in an exemplary fashion, that offers materials which go beyond late medieval Church administration to include matters concerning noble lay households, gender relations and inheritance strategies.