Page:English Historical Review Volume 37.djvu/9

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The Legend of 'Eudo Dapifer'

Among the auxiliary departments of historical research in England, the critical study of baronial genealogy has attracted so few scholars that we are still practically dependent on Dugdale's well-known Baronage (1675–6) for information on the subject. Strange as this assertion may seem, I speak from practical experience, having probably devoted more attention to historical genealogy[2] than any one else at the present time. Paradoxical though it may appear to uphold the dependence of modern scholars on a work compiled by a king of arms in the days of Charles the Second, its value, I hasten to explain, is due solely to the system adopted throughout by Dugdale, namely, that of giving exact marginal references for every statement that he makes. Record evidence does not change: the renvois of Dugdale still provide a priceless key to the Public Records, while the muniments in private hands which he was enabled to inspect, and which in many cases he so patiently transcribed, are, only too often, no longer accessible to ourselves.[3] The results of his long labour are no unworthy part of that great legacy of learning for which the scholar of to-day is indebted to the famous antiquaries of the seventeenth century.

The weakest point in the Baronage is that lack of critical treatment which is seen in Dugdale's use of monastic evidence. As himself the editor of the first Monasticon—although the materials are said to have been chiefly collected by Dodsworth—he was, no doubt, apt to place excessive reliance, not merely on 'cartulary' charters of more or less doubtful validity, but on those curious narratives which were woven by grateful

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  2. At the London Congress of Historical Studies I read a paper on 'Historical Genealogy', but have not yet published it.
  3. Many of his transcripts are preserved in the Bodleian Library and were employed by me for my Geoffrey de Mandeville.