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Henry I
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About the Author

C. Warren Hollister was professor of history emeritus at the University of California, Santa Barbara before his death in 1997.

Reviews

"The product of a lifetime's research, a monument to its author's scholarship and teaching alike, this book gives us a Henry I to relish as well as to reconsider... thorough and readable." T.N. Bisson, English Historical Review "A deeply learned, readable, and witty biography, which provides a new assessment of an important reign... a marvelous book." Marjorie Chibnall, Albion "A magisterial biography." Publishers Weekly "A work of outstanding scholarship." Fred A. Cazel, History: Reviews of New Books "A valuable volume, destined to be the standard biography." Expository Times

Henry I (who reigned over England and Normandy from 1100 to 1135) is remembered primarily for "Conan's Leap," when he heaved the treacherous Conan Pilatus from a tower, and for his death from an alleged surfeit of lampreys. He deserves better from history, and Hollister's magisterial biography, 40 years in the making, accords him fuller regard. Begun in 1962, the long-delayed manuscript perished in a 1990 fire. Hollister began reconstructing the book but died in 1997, before its completion. Frost, his former Ph.D. student, finished the job. They persuasively cast Henry (youngest of William the Conqueror's three sons) as a major English monarch. Left no land by his father, Henry outwitted one brother; the other one died in a hunting accident. King at 31, Henry I rebuilt baronial alliances, established a charter rectifying governmental abuses, married twice and, having lost a legitimate son, left his kingdom to daughter Matilda. She, too, had to fight to hold onto it, because Henry's nephew Stephen, who suffered stomach problems ("his diarrhea probably determined the history of England... between 1135 and 1154"), initially kept her from the crown. Hollister spares nothing about Henry's reign, yet convinces that his rule was orderly and reasonable in the context of those turbulent times. He "surrounded himself with systematizers" and sought only to reconstruct his father's domains. The drama lay in sibling rivalries, church-state clashes and the ever-changing followers and opponents whom the astute king co-opted, outmaneuvered or crushed. Henry, writes Hollister, "transformed his court from a gang of itinerant predators into a company of well-controlled courtiers," but one almost needs a scorecard to keep track of the players. Illus. not seen by PW. (June) Forecast: Primarily for scholars, this may find a larger readership with its vivid portrait of unruly medieval England. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

The posthumous magnum opus of prodigious medievalist Hollister (Univ. of California, Santa Barbara), this work was edited and completed by former student Frost after Hollister's death in 1997. In 1994, the final draft was destroyed by a fire, and Hollister spent his final years reconstructing a little over nine chapters. After an initial chapter on sources and settings, six chapters detail the monarch's life and reign (1100-35). A conclusion follows three thematic chapters on Henry's exemplary baronial and Church management, the foundations of efficient tax collection, and the courts. His coronation charter modeled the later Magna Carta. Hollister refutes misconceptions of Henry as violent, grasping, and tyrannical, arguing that peace and ordered administration were his accomplishments the latter achievement wrongly attributed to grandson Henry II. Henry I established the exchequer, stopped private wars and the ravishing of commoners, gave courts substantive power, and benefited religious establishments. His marriage to a descendant of Saxon kings unified rival lines. Hollister's prose employs good narrative flow; Frost's completion blends seamlessly. This first modern scholarly overview of Henry I's life and reign should become the standard. Highly recommended for academic libraries. Nigel Tappin, Lake of Bays P.L., Huntsville, Ont. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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