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'St Wilfrid of Ripon and the Northern Church in Anglo-Norman Historiography'

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date03/2012
JournalNorthern History
Journal number1
Volume49
Number of pages26
Pages11-36
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

This article investigates the reception of the story of St Wilfrid in the early twelfth century, a critical period for the development of the standard narratives of English history. Two historians active at this time, Eadmer of Canterbury and William of Malmesbury, produced extended accounts of Wilfrid, but using different materials and for contrasting purposes. Eadmer was attempting to replace the early eighth-century uita by Stephen the Priest with a text that was less harmful to the interests of Canterbury, in an attempt to persuade the monks of his community (Christ Church Cathedral Priory) to embrace Wilfrid’s cult. William revived and adapted Stephen’s narrative in order to show that the English, their religious and their buildings were worthy of respect—themes that were central to his abbey’s campaign to protect itself from the lordship of Roger, bishop of Salisbury (1102–39). The essay concludes by evaluating the Eadmer’s and William’s use of Bede’s Historia ecclesiastica, arguing that their responses to its treatment of Wilfrid reveal an acute understanding of their predecessor’s biases and methods as an historian.