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From Ad Hoc to Routine: A Case Study in Medieval Bureaucracy.

E. E., (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1991) xii + 265 pp. ISBN 0-8122-3079-5. 35.10[pounds]. As a treatment of the origins and development of the office of General Receiver of Flanders in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, this book has considerable merit. The author has worked carefully through a large amount of difficult material to produce an account which is clear and mostly convincing, if unduly protracted. As a case study, the work is less successful. Although Dr Kittell has some interesting things to say in her introduction about die nature of bureaucracy and |routinization', there is not much hard evidence to support her claims that it was the centralized fiscal power represented by the General Receiver and his staff that enabled the counts of Flanders to gain the upper hand over the three great cities of the region (if they truly did) and to present themselves, with credibility, as the public authority. Other possible sources of comital or urban power -- conceptual, legal, military, even financial -- are largely ignored: the possibility that the bureaucratic development Kittell describes is incidental, rather than fundamental, is not considered. Comparisons with other administrative regimes are perfunctory and often dubious, and the identification of |private' with |personal' and |public' with 'impersonal' seems anachronistic in the age of the double-bodied ruler. The book has firm foundations, but there is little between them and the shaky superstructure.
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Author:Watts, John
Publication:Medium Aevum
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 1993
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