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Chapter 6 - Anglo-Saxon Futures: Writing England’s Ethical Past, Before and After 1066

from Part I - Time

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 December 2019

Jennifer Jahner
Affiliation:
California Institute of Technology
Emily Steiner
Affiliation:
University of Pennsylvania
Elizabeth M. Tyler
Affiliation:
University of York
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Summary

Across diverse medieval historical writings, the Anglo-Saxon period was envisioned as a coherent historical era and as a paradigm of England’s political and ethical potential. Starting with Bede and continuing through the twelfth-century Latin chroniclers, those writers invested in a providential historiography presented the Anglo-Saxons as a perfected people whose achievements the present should try to regain. Although Geoffrey of Monmouth’s vision of dastardly Saxons in the History of the Britons disrupted this narrative, it did not displace it; even late medieval writers sympathetic to Geoffrey’s Britons might depict the Anglo-Saxons as morally desirable. The mythos of the holy, just Anglo-Saxons was widespread in vernacular writings as well, from chronicle to romance to hagiography. This largely imaginary picture of an ethical “Anglo-Saxon future” was inherited by the sixteenth-century religious polemicists and continues to be felt in contemporary politics.

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Chapter
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Medieval Historical Writing
Britain and Ireland, 500–1500
, pp. 101 - 116
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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