The Norman Edge: Identity and State-Formation on the Frontiers of Europe is a colloborative research project based in the History Department at Lancaster University. The project was funded by a major grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council between December 2008 and December 2011.
Purpose of the Project
The research investigated the salient characteristics of Norman expansion from their northern French homeland to the frontiers of Christian Europe, assessing the relationships between medieval 'state-formation' and political identities. The project provided new insights into the processes of medieval western European expansion, state-formation and identity-construction, and sought to re-evaluate the political ontology of the Norman world.
The project addressed the historical development of political cultures in three areas on the periphery of the 'Norman world': middle Britain (northern England and southern Scotland), southern Italy, and the crusader states.
Preliminary work comparing Norman elites in southern Italy and Normandy suggests that an important factor in the construction of new Norman polities was the capacity of settlers in the diaspora to maintain connections between themselves and with the 'homeland' of Normandy. This project has and will continue to produce a systematic study of the relationships between different parts of the Norman diaspora.
In each area of new settlement, Normans faced also established local elites with whom power had to be either contested or shared. Moreover, the ethnic and religious composition of the native peoples differed across and within these regions, and included Muslims, Arabic-speaking Christians, Greeks, and English- and Celtic-speaking inhabitants. The challenges posed by this diversity to Norman political and ethnic identity will provide a crucial dimension to the research.
The following questions were central to the project's methodology and scholarly aims:
What imagined or substantive solidarities existed within ethnic, kinship and lordship-defined groups in each of the three areas studied?
What networks existed between individuals from these groups and members of those groups resident outside those areas, and how were they maintained?
What possible advantages did claimed membership of those latter groups give individuals at a local level, and how did they exploit them?
To what extent did trans-European networks and identifications act in competition or in harmony with the emerging eleventh- and twelfth-century states and regions?
Were these networks strong enough to sustain the 'Norman world' as a politically and culturally important concept for eleventh- and twelfth-century 'Normans'
- To what extent were processes of state-formation endebted to indigenous practices which were adopted and adapted by the Norman rulers?