PROSOPOGRAPHY FOR BEGINNERS

A Tutorial
 

 

STAGE 3 EXERCISES

<<Prev Projects home       

[person list iperson list iiperson list iiianalysis]

Creating a Person List from the Index of Names (i)

[Top of page]

Establishing identity
The index you have created is an index of name records. As such it tells us nothing about individual people. Establishing unique identity is one of the core aims of a prosopography. The next stage, therefore, is to analyse your records with a view to creating a separate Index of Persons, or Person List. Use the same layout as before, with an ID number for each record, and at least two fields, a 'first name' and a "descriptor" field.

Treatment of Names
At this stage it is possible, and will probably become necessary, to use a standardized form of certain names. You will also need to devise a regular way of representing descriptors (second name elements) so that your index is easy to search alphabetically. In order to facilitate identification and searching by first name, consider numbering each occurrence of a given personal name, Alberic I, Alberic II, or Ralph 1, Ralph 2, etc.

Linking Person and Name Records
It is important that your Person List is related to your Index of Names. When you create the person records in the Person List, you have made a judgement about one or more records in the Index of Names. You should ensure that this judgement is made visible by noting the ID numbers of the name record or records that you wish to associate with a person record in the Person List. Do this by adding a new field to your person record.


Creating a Person List from the Index of Names (ii)

[Top of page]

You are now ready to start creating your Person List.
Begin with key figures. It will help you to begin with the names of key figures, such as kings and archbishops. These persons will be easy to isolate in your texts and easy to identify from other sources, including modern reference manuals. Their identities will provide useful information about the likely dates of these documents. Date information will in turn be valuable in deciding the question of identity for both named and unnamed persons.

Create a note or memo field into which you can enter information about the key persons you have identified.

Remember that your Person List is a new table linked to your earlier Name List by ID numbers. No information from your Names List table will be lost by the creation of the Person Table, so avoid unnecessary repetition of information. Use your memo field to explain your decisions if necessary, or to record helpful miscellaneous information that does not fit into your main fields.


Creating a Person List from the Index of Names (iii)

[Top of page]

"Fusion" and "Fission" For key persons such as kings there will not normally be a problem associating name records with person records. Even when kings have the same first name, the names of other persons occurring in their acta will usually distinguish one from another. Things are not so simple for lesser individuals and you might change your mind about some name records more than once. Analysis of the name records will sometimes require the merging of two or more name records into the same person record ("fusion"); sometimes it will require that two name records that have been merged should be separated into records for two distinct persons ("fission"). Never merge records while any doubt remains about identity as this may result in individuals being permanently lost. It is much easier to merge records later on than to recognize and then disentangle merged records.

Always record the reasons (using your note or memo field) why you have identified one or more name record with the same individual, or why you are uncertain whether name records do in fact refer to a sole individual.

You can sort your table alphabetically by first name and by descriptor in order to make your task clearer. A useful first step is to sort by charter number and isolate the names of key persons such as kings and archbishops. This will give you a rough chronological guide when you come to decide whether the "Ranulf" appearing in one charter could be the same as the "Ranulf" appearing in another. The surrounding context will be central to your decision. Do the Ranulfs in each case appear in connection with the same gift to the abbey, or associated with the same people? Look out for variant spellings of the same name (eg."Rannulf", "Randulf").

Now create your Person List. Work in two stages, an interim stage based upon a copy of your Index of Name, and a final stage listing all your persons with a standardized form of their names

When you are ready, compare your work with these versions, [IndexPersonsLatinInterim] or [IndexPersonsEnglishInterim], and then [IndexPersonsLatin] or [IndexPersonEnglish] The first illustrates a stage in the process of nominal record linkage. The second suggests reduces repetition and introduces name standardization. A different system of numbering has been used for the de Vere family. Basic information on the key persons has been included. Sources referred to are JohnLe Neve, Fasti Ecclesiæ Anglicanæ 1066-1300, new edn. Diana Greenaway, and D. Knowles and C. N. L. Brooke, Heads of Religious Houses (Cambridge, 1976)


Moving towards stage 3, Analysis

[Top of page]

The group of documents used for these exercises presents a very restricted and compact local community. It is relatively straightforward to see that the names recurring in the documents do indeed relate to the same persons.

The identification of the kings, archbishops and bishops provides a clear chronological starting point. The repetition of the name Alberic in the de Vere line is tricky, but it should not be too difficult to work out the outlines of the de Vere lineage from these charters. There is a noticeable progression up the social scale from Alberic I to his grandson Earl Alberic.

By contrast, you will have noticed the difference in quality of those persons with English names. These people were at the lower end of the social scale.

We may not be able to discover more about the lowliest people as individuals than appears in these charters. Persons of their social station rarely appear in the written record. For those higher up the social scale we may hope to learn more from other documents. For example, we can look at Domesday Book for the holding of the first Alberic de Vere in Essex and other counties. We can compare the Domesday information about the names of people and places associated with Albertic with information in later documents, such as these charters, to see if we can trace continuities or discontinuities. We discover that in the:

"Hundred of Lexden. Alberic de Ver holds [Earls] Colne in lordship, which Wulfwin held as a manor, for 5 hides. Always.villagers; 13 smallholders; 6 slaves. … Of this manor, Demiblanc [Dimidius blancus] holds 1 hide".

This shows that Colne was a hereditary possession of the de Veres, and explains the origins of the place-names Colun Alberici and Colun de Miblanc. Unfortunately, there appears to be no further record of Demiblanc himself. We also discover the ancestors of some of those appearing as Alberic III's principal tenants in the Carta of 1166; e.g. the Adelelm who held Burgate in Suffolk of Alberic I, ancestor of William de Burgatin, or the Everard who held Saxon Street [Sextune] in Cambridgeshire, ancestor of the Everard of 1166. This sort of information can tell us something about the stability of the family and its honour (lands) through a particularly marked period of English history, from the Conquest in 1066 to the reign of Henry II.

From other charters, royal writs and chronicles we might learn more about the careers of the de Veres, their marriage alliances and those of their tenants, which would help to explain the social mobility evident in the de Vere lineage in this period.

The exercises in this tutorial have concentrated on the creation of indexes (stage 2), omitting the preliminary stage 1 which would have been the basis of a real prosopographical research project. Stage 1 includes defining the subject group(s) to be studied and making a preliminary list of the questions to be asked of the assembled data, all to be established on the basis of available source material. Decisions taken at this point will determine the nature of the 'questionnaire' on which the biographical directory (notes attached to the persons in the index of persons) will be compiled, and provide the correlates on which the stage 3 analysis will be based. However, if you master the requirements of stage 2 you will have established whether or not prosopography is for you, shown you are capable of the rigour required for stages 1 and 3, and become more aware of the problems and possibilities of name forms in historical records. Since recorded history is about people and every one has a name, whether or not recorded in full, you will not have wasted your time, even if you decide that prosopography is not for you.

Before leaving this tutorial, take the time for a brief look at a quite different selection of documents, taken from the Lisle Letters, written to and by Arthur Plantagent, Lord Lisle, governor of Calais Castle by appointment of his kinsman Henry VIII. Lord Lisle had the right of appointment to the garrison of Calais and as such found himself constantly importuned by those who sought places there for their own protégés. One of them was Sir Richard Whethill who was determined to secure a place for his son Robert; Lisle was equally determined he should not. Although Lisle's right of appointment meant that he could (and on this occcasion did) defy the king's wishes, defying the wishes of Henry VIII was not undertaken lightly.

Read the extracts below and note the underlined name forms.

680: Lord Lisle to Sir Richard Page          22 April 1536

Right worshipful Sir, In my right hearty manner I commend me unto you, heartily thanking you for your kindness and pain taken for me which I do not forget. Signifying you that I am informed that the King is advertised that I have given v or vj Spears rooms since I came to Calais. Of truth, I gave but iij, and ij of them were by the King's letter, which I have to shew, the one for Richard Blunt and the other for Sir Thomas Palmer, Knight Porter, which be so strongly made that methought it became me not disobey them. And the third was to a man that hath served the King all the days of his life like an honest man, and a very forward man as I was informed by them that haunted the war, as well worthy to have the room as any man.
Furthermore if it please the King's Grace to forbear the admittance of young Whethill for my time abiding here during the King's pleasure, I were in that behalf greatly bound unto the King's Highness. // For if he or any other should obtain rooms here in despite of me, when I should command them to do their duties the[y] would say they are not under my commandment for they had no room of me, which would not a little grieve me that any such should be here during my time. Therefore I intend not hereafter to admit no Spear room, but immediately after I have named one to send him over unto the King, that, if his Grace like him not, to put in one such as his Grace thinks meet to furnish such a room. // Therefore, as methinks, it should not stand with the King's honour, nor for the safeguard of this town and marches, to put in one that would be here in despite of me, which never gave no such cause, I take God to my judge, to him nor to no other. Now, good Master Page, as ever I may do you pleasure, stick to me in this matter // according to right. For I would be very loath to be overcome by Mr. Whethill, his wife, or any of his lineage, for I have done nothing against him but I have the King's letter to bear me in it, which I could do no less but if I would do them wrong whom the King doth write unto me for expressly. I know very well upon true advertising the King's Highness will be good lord unto me in this matter, as knows our Lord, who send you your gentle heart's desire.
Written at Calais the xxij day of April. Signed
Your owne dewryng my lyfe Arthur Lyssle

680a: Lord Lisle to Henry VIII          [n.d.] ? c. 10-22 April 1536

Please it your Highness to be advertised that I have received your Grace's letter dated at Westminster the . of April, wherein your pleasure is that I shall admit one Robert Whethill unto a room of a Spear and late being one Thomas Prowde's room. Please it your Majesty to call to your remembrance, upon a iij years' past your Grace wrote me a letter in the favour of Sir Thomas Palmer, your Knight Porter here, commanding meby the same letter that the first room of iij, which was by especial works, Thomas Prowde, Raffe Broke or Thomas Tate, that should first fall void, that I should admit the said Sir Thomas Palmer unto it, or a sufficient man for it whom he would answer for, all other grants made herebefore or hereafter to be made notwithstanding: which grant your Knight Porter brought before Master Treasurer and all other your Commissioners at their last being here, and in likewise the young man, whom they did able very well: which Commissioners did conclude before all your Council here that the right was in your said servant, and to put in any able man in any of these foresaid iij rooms at his pleasure before specified. Whereupon, at the death of the said Prowde, I did admit the same ^young man^ at the nomination of your said Porter, who is well worthy to have it ^both for his person^ and a good horseman and shall spend after the death of his father within little of a marks a year.
Sir, upon this admittance my Lady Whethill came upon my poor wife, in Pilate's voice railing upon me, many slanderous words and untrue, as shall be proved before your Grace and your Council at all times, which did not a little grieve me, seeing that I did her no wrong: and if it had not been fearing your Grace's displeasure I would have seen her punished ^for it^ in ensample of all other. And farther, this young man her son, whom your Grace writeth for, said before this time that he would have a Spear's room here, and ask me no leave, ^nor give me no thanks for the same^, which as methought was ^very liberally^ spoken, in the Gate here, before all your servants, I being admitted by your Grace, unworthy, to be ^your^ Captain here…

740: John Husee to Lord Lisle          5 July 1536: p. 448-9

Pleaseth it your lordship to understand that this morning I wrote by Bracy what till that ^ time ^ was requisite, and since that time Mr. Treasurer of the King's House sent for me and showed me that after many causes reasoned before the King's Highness betwixt Mr. Whethill the elder and him, at the last the King's Highness was content to refer the matter unto the judgment of my Lord Chancellor, Mr. Secretary and him; so that he hopeth to give your enemy the overthrow, so that this matter shall bescanned and tried by the patents, and so I have procured the copy of your lordship's patent and delivered the same unto Mr. Treasurer. I trust God shall send a good day.
Mr. Treasurer would that your lordship should write some loving letter unto Mr. Secretary and desire his lawful favour in that behalf. He hath written your lordship of his mind in that behalf by Byrcham. And Mr. Secretary promised that I should have his letters as this day, but he maketh no haste therein, there are so many weighty matters in hand; but that notwithstanding, he hath this day moved the King's Majesty for your licence to come to Dover, but his Grace hath deferred the same to take advisement till afternoon, so what shall come of it God knoweth. But for yea or nay it shall be good your lordship be in a' readyness, for although your lordship be denied to come over, yet think I verily Mr. Secretary will come thither, although he go in one tide over and come in another. It is not yet determinately known whether the Queen's Grace goeth there or no. As soon as I shall have perfect knowledge your lordship shall be ascertained, as God knoweth, who send your lordship once your heart's desire.
From London, the vth day of July at afternoon.
By him that is your lordship's while he liveth,
John Husee

There are considerable contrasts with the Colne documents, which relate to a small self-defined group, the family and dependents of the founders of Colne Priory. The documents contain little evidence of personal motivation beyond a concern for soul of self and kin. They indicate clear levels of authority and their jurisdictions - grants are made with consent of the heir, in the case of the lord, then of his king, and also of the bishop and archbishop. The Lisle letters are personal documents, which are revelatory of personal motive and emotion and of conflicting levels of authority in matters of patronage. There issues with name forms are very similar, but there are some striking differences in the way the names are recorded. Where is the earlier documents a reference to the bishop of London, episcopus Londonie, emphasises the office rather than the man who held it, in the Tudor documents writers routinely refer to "Mr Chamberlain" or the "Earl of Winchester", using an office in lieu of a personal name. Hence, the former is an anonymous, though he will be identifiable if the document is datable; the latter merely lack the (to us) conventional first and second name, both of which should be easy to discover from other Letters or sources. Whatever the date of the sources in which you are interested, it as well to remember that names were recorded according to the needs and conventions of the writer, not of the persons designated by the names.

<<Prev Projects home       
 

©University of Oxford

The compilers were Dr Katharine S. B. Keats-Rohan with the assistance of Dr Olga Borymchuk and Jacquelyn Fernholz.