BOROUGHS OF MEDIAEVAL WALES. Edited by R. A. Griffiths. University of Wales Press, 1978. Pp. xii, 398. £ 12.50. The towns of medieval Wales have for long been in need of more study. E. A. Lewis's classic sketch of 1912 has had few successors, apart from a handful of surveys insecurely based on the evidence, and some patchy work, mostly architectural and topographical, on the Edwardian found- ations. Now R. A. Griffiths has assembled scholarly essays on eleven towns to open up the subject and suggest what can be done with it. Dr. Griffiths himself contributes Aberystwyth and Carmarthen, as well as the introduction, R. R. Davies does Brecon, K. Williams-Jones Caernarvon, D. G. Walker Cardiff, D. H. Owen Denbigh, A. C. Reeves Newport, Llinos B. Smith Oswestry, R. I. Jack Ruthin, W. R. B. Robinson Swansea, and R. F. Walker Tenby. The editor has not imposed any rigid frame- work on his contributors but they all deal with the traditional subjects of topography and constitutional, social, and economic history, the Cardiff article concentrating most on the first of these and that on Newport dealing mostly with the lords of the town, with relatively little analysis of the scanty surviving evidence about the town. The result is a variety of insights and a quarry of information of much local interest, presented in a more readable and attractive form than could easily be achieved by a more systematic approach. It must be said, however, that it does not favour comparative study and that most of the essays, interesting and learned as they are, are not focused very sharply on the sort of issues that have concerned medieval urban historians at large in recent decades. This is notably the case on the issue of urban origins. The subject of the book is 'boroughs', more or less in the sense that Tait used the word, though one may doubt whether he would have considered it to denote so significant a category in Wales. The assumption is, apparently, that the English institutional framework and vocabulary introduced something sufficiently new to be studied on its own. Some contributors do indeed cast more or less searching glances backwards before the conquest but they do not direct them so as to contribute very significantly to debates about urban origins and the 'continuity question' in northern Europe. Work published on equally unpromising regions abroad suggests that there is more to be said about the early medieval period. Ungenerous as it may seem in a reviewer to ask for more, it is moreover arguable that, even within the period of Anglo-Welsh 'boroughs', 'the difficult transition from military centre to commercial focus' (pp. 223-4) might be more readily explained if the prehistory of both were considered. Within the post-conquest period most contributors have resisted current fashion in saying little about town plans and planning. It is perhaps a pity that those who apparently reject suggestions made by M. W. Beresford in his New Towns do not explain why: lack of reference to different interpretations in previously published work leaves the reader in doubt. Constitutional history looms less large now than it did in the past. Some of the old systematic rigour might indeed have made it easier to understand some points, like the chronology of the charters and fee-farm grants at Brecon, but points of more than local interest are nevertheless made, notably about the relative position of mayor and alderman (pp. 86,