Saul, Nigel Edward 1952–
Saul, Nigel Edward 1952–
Born June 20, 1952, in England; son of Edward Thomas (a civil servant) and Marion Saul; married Jane Melanie Nichols (a banker), 1983. Education: Hertford College, Oxford, B.A. (first-class honors), 1974, D.Phil., 1978. Politics: Conservative. Religion: Church of England.
Home and office—Royal Holloway College, Egham Hill, Surrey, England.
Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, Surrey, England, lecturer in medieval history, 1978—, professor, 1997—.
Knights and Esquires: The Gloucestershire Gentry in the Fourteenth Century, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1981.
The Batsford Companion to Medieval England, Batsford (London, England), 1983, revised edition published as A Companion to Medieval England, 1066-1485, Tempus (Stroud, England), 2000.
Scenes from Provincial Life: Knightly Families in Sussex, 1280-1400, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1986.
(Editor) Age of Chivalry, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1992.
(Editor) England in Europe, 1066-1453, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1994.
(Editor) The National Trust Historical Atlas of Britain: Prehistorical and Medieval, A. Sutton (Dover, NH), 1994.
(Editor) The Oxford Illustrated History of Medieval England, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1994.
(Editor) The Oxford Illustrated History of Medieval England, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1997.
(Contributor) Anthony Goodman and James L. Gillespie, editors, Richard II: The Art of Kingship, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1999.
Death, Art, and Memory in Medieval England: The Cobham Family and Their Monuments, 1300-1500, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2001.
(Editor) St. George's Chapel, Windsor, in the Fourteenth Century, Boydell Press (Rochester, NY), 2005.
Contributor of articles to publications.
Nigel Edward Saul is a widely respected authority on medieval English history. In Knights and Esquires: The Gloucestershire Gentry in the Fourteenth Century, Saul describes the formation of a new ruling elite composed of knights, esquires, and lesser landowners that came to monopolize local political power in fourteenth-century Gloucestershire. As distinct from the nobility proper, whose authority in Saul's view was centered in the parliament, the local gentry exercised its power through the county court. This institution increasingly assumed the character of a local political assembly rather than a court of law. The author depicts many members of the new elite and thus, according to Edward Miller's Times Literary Supplement review, "so far as the evidence serves, Saul gives these political and social changes a human face…. It is a further merit of Dr. Saul's book that his knights and esquires are portrayed warts and all." Referring to Knights and Esquires as "a pioneering investigation," Miller concluded, "Dr. Saul has contributed to a revision of English medieval history."
Saul's The Batsford Companion to Medieval England is a reference work containing technical definitions and entries of varying length on many different subjects, including major historical figures; art, architecture, and literature; and religious, legal, social, and governmental institutions. The book "provides a valuable insight to the period," noted Brenda Bolton in the Times Literary Supplement.
In several works Saul focuses on the life and reign of England's Richard II. While this unsuccessful king is known to modern readers mostly through Shakespeare, in his Richard II Saul provides a more scholarly picture of the monarch and his times. Richard ascended to the throne in 1377 at age ten, when England was embroiled in the Hundred Years' War. Four years later he successfully handled the Great Rebellion, but his autocratic attempts to strengthen the monarchy met with powerful resistance, and he was deposed in 1399. History Today critic J.R. Maddicott, who considered Saul's book an "outstanding piece of historical writing," wrote that Saul "sees Richard as a king who had an exceptionally high regard for his royal office and for the prerogative rights which went with it: one who demanded subservience from his subjects, … appealed to Roman law to justify his sovereign claims, and sought to establish peace in his realm on his own terms of unconditional obedience to the crown." Saul also analyses how Richard's religious beliefs influenced his politics, allowing the king a way to justify ordering the murder of his uncle, the Duke of Gloucester, because the duke had formerly rebelled against the crown.
The deposed monarch, and the two other English kings who shared his name, are the subjects of The Three Richards: Richard I, Richard II, and Richard III. The first of this name ruled from 1189 to 1199, and was renowned for his chivalry and kingship. Richard II was, by a comparison, a bad king, as was Richard III, who reigned from 1483 to 1485. Saul provides brief biographies of each figure and explains the historical context of his reign; he also discusses English ideas of kingship and analyses the ways in which the three Richards succeeded or failed as rulers. Commenting on Saul's structuring of the book around the idea that the kings' shared name held some influence in their destinies, History Today contributor David Boyle observed that "slicing history in this non-rational way … allows us to take it, in a sense, unawares—to see parallels and coincidences that were never quite apparent before, to throw into sharp relief the hidden forces of change that we sense are there behind medieval history but never quite see."
Saul also contributed an essay to the book Richard II: The Art of Kingship. John M. Theilmann, writing in History: Review of New Books, described the piece as a "good overview of political developments" during Richard's reign.
In Death, Art, and Memory in Medieval England: The Cobham Family and Their Monuments, 1300-1500, Saul explores the medieval practice of memorializing the dead by examining in detail the tombs and monumental brasses created by the wealthy and influential Cobham family. In the English Historical Review, Alan Borg called the book a "timely and much needed" work that is "by far the most detailed treatment of the subject to have been published."
As editor of The Oxford Illustrated History of Medieval England, Saul earned praise for bringing "freshness and originality" to the subject, as John Blair commented in the English Historical Review. "What was special about England, and about the period, is vividly conveyed," wrote Blair. "This is easily the best broad synthesis to date."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Canadian Journal of History, March 22, 2006, J.S. Bothwell, review of The Three Richards: Richard I, Richard II, and Richard III, p. 109.
Catholic Historical Review, July, 2006, Linda Monckton, review of St. George's Chapel, Windsor, in the Fourteenth Century, p. 305.
Contemporary Review, January, 1995, Raymond Lamont-Brown, review of The National Trust Historical Atlas of Britain: Prehistorical and Medieval, p. 56; October, 1997, review of Richard II, p. 222.
English Historical Review, February, 2002, Alan Borg, review of Death, Art, and Memory in Medieval England: The Cobham Family and Their Monuments, 1300-1500, p. 166; February, 2003, John Blair, review of The Oxford Illustrated History of Medieval England, p. 168.
Geographical, October, 1997, Melanie Train, review of The National Trust Historical Atlas of Britain, p. 103.
History: Review of New Books, fall, 1999, John M. Theilmann, review of Richard II: The Art of Kingship; fall, 2002, Richard W. Pfaff, review of Death, Art, and Memory in Medieval England.
History Today, January, 1996, Philip Mansel, review of England in Europe, 1066-1453, p. 58; February, 1998, J.R. Maddicott, reviews of Richard II and The Oxford Illustrated History of Medieval England, p. 53; May, 2005, David Boyle, review of The Three Richards, p. 68.
Journal of Ecclesiastical History, October, 1998, Philip Morgan, review of Richard II, p. 725; July, 2006, Roger Lovatt, review of St. George's Chapel, Windsor, in the Fourteenth Century, p. 585.
Library Journal, May 1, 1997, Julie Still, review of Richard II, p. 116.
Publishers Weekly, May 5, 1997, review of Richard II, p. 192.
Reference & Research Book News, November, 2005, review of A Companion to Medieval England, 1066-1485.
Times Literary Supplement, January 22, 1982, Edward Miller, review of Knights and Esquires: The Gloucestershire Gentry in the Fourteenth Century, p. 70; May 27, 1983, Brenda Bolton, review of The Batsford Companion to Medieval England.