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Chapter 1 - Gildas

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

After 410 A. D., no written account gives direct evidence of the events in the British Islands. Gildas was the first to break the silence and testify to a world that had lost many of its points of reference. Cut off from the continent, the insular scholars kept their knowledge of the Latin language and of the writings of the Fathers of the Church. Around 500, Gildas relied on the Bible to interpret the wars between Britons and Saxons, and depicted the misfortunes of the Britons on the model of the Hebrews, as a new Chosen People chastened by God for its sins.

But the mission sent by Pope Gregory the Great led to the rediscovery of the continental chronology of events, and eventually to British reintegration into the Providential History of Roman Christendom. From Bede onward, two fundamental elements for recording history in the British Isles during the Middle Ages were thus established: the need for a chronological framework to be constructed at all costs, and the coexistence of contradictory versions of the past illustrating rival claims to be the Chosen People by the Scots, the Britons, the English and the Saxons.

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Chapter
Information
Medieval Historical Writing
Britain and Ireland, 500–1500
, pp. 19 - 34
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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