A Saxon state : Anglo-Saxonism and the English nation, 1703-1805
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For the past century, medievalism studies generally and Anglo-Saxonism studies in particular have largely dismissed the eighteenth century as a dark period in English interest in the Anglo-Saxons. Recent scholarship has tended to elide Anglo-Saxon studies with Old English studies and consequently has overlooked contributions from fields such as archaeology, art history and political philosophy. This thesis provides the first re-examination of scholarly, antiquarian and popular Anglo-Saxonism in eighteenth-century England and argues that, far from disappearing, interest in Anglo-Saxon culture and history permeated British culture and made significant contributions to contemporary formulations and expressions of Englishness and English national, legal and cultural identities. Each chapter examines a different category of Anglo-Saxonist production or activity, as those categories would be distributed across current scholarship, in order to explore the ways in which the Anglo-Saxons were understood and deployed in the construction of contemporary cultural- historiographical narratives. The first three chapters contain, respectively, a review of the achievements of the ‘Oxford school’ of Saxonists of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries; antiquarian Anglo-Saxon studies by members of the Society of Antiquaries of London and their correspondents; and historiographical presentations of the Anglo-Saxons in local, county and national histories. Chapters four and five examine the appearance of the Anglo-Saxons in visual and dramatic art, and the role of Anglo-Saxonist legal and juridical language in eighteenth-century politics, with reference to discoveries resulting from the academic and antiquarian research outlined in chapters one to three. It is my contention that Anglo-Saxonism came to serve as a unifying ideology of origins for English citizens concerned with national history, and political and social institutions. As a popular as well as scholarly ideology, Anglo-Saxonism also came to define English national character and values, an English identity recognised and celebrated as such both at home and abroad.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2023-10-23
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Electronic copy restricted until 23rd October 2023
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