Book Review: Henry the Liberal: Count of Champagne, 1127-1181


by Theodore Evergates

Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016. Pp. x, 310. Illus., maps, appends., notes, biblio., index. $75.00. ISBN: 0812247906

The Life and Times of a Medieval Count

A specialist in the history, society, and culture of medieval Champagne in north central France, Prof. Evergates (McDaniel College), author of The Aristocracy in the County of Champagne, Feudal Society in Medieval France, and other works, takes a look at Count Henry I. Henry Champagne from 1152 to 1181, the longest reigning count during the 12th century, and raised the county to the height of its prosperity and influence.

A scholar as well as an able governor, Henry was also a patron of the arts, the Church, business, and more. He created an orderly administration of Champagne, which in turn stimulated commerce, making the Champagne fairs major centers of trade, while encouraging learning, and Troyes, his capital, attracted many notable contemporary scholars. Henry twice went on Crusade, which gives us a look at the remarkable complexities of war and politics in the Holy Land, and on his return from his second expedition became a prisoner of the Sultan of Rum, to be ransomed by the Byzantine Emperor. and had a role in the power politics of the age.

Evergates integrates these various aspects of Henry’s life very effectively, reflecting, in fact, the nature of the medieval ruler, who had to be a multitasker. We get a look at the complex political juggling involved in marriages (including Henry’s, those of several kings, and even a Byzantine emperor’s), the role of personal ties in governance, and much more.

A volume in the Pennsylvania “Middle Ages” series, Henry the Liberal is a valuable book for scholars of the period, and an easy read even for the layman who may be interested in learning more about the medieval world.

Note: Henry the Liberal is also available as an e-book, ISBN 978-0-8122-9252-7.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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