This project will examine surviving medieval manuscripts in order to investigate the writing of history in areas controlled by the Anglo-Norman Empire in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. In this period, history (referring to both the recent past and stretching back to biblical chronology), seems to have become a major interest for both the educated elite and a growing semi-literate population. New chronicles and annals were produced, together with accounts of the histories of particular peoples, nations and subjects. Much historical writing in this period dealt with issues of conquest and identity, which was often allied to geography, ethnicity or particular institutions. In addition to the very well-known Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in its many versions, some twelfth-century writers achieved recognition for their work on historical topics. In the thirteenth century their work, together with that of earlier writers, most notably Bede, was taken up and developed by writers such as Matthew Paris, and many monastic chroniclers. At the same time some of this material began to be illustrated, both with figurative imagery and with technical diagrams. This project will investigate the surviving volumes in which such works are contained. It will address their size and layout, the materials used in their production, and in particular their decoration, to consider the circumstances in which they were produced and circulated, the audiences for the material, and attitudes to both particular ideas and stories, and to historical writing in general. In particular it will consider how images, and the manuscripts in which they appeared, were used to express particular ideas about the diverse communities encompassed by the Anglo-Norman Empire as its boundaries expanded in the twelfth century, before shrinking in the thirteenth century.
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