Date of Award

5-2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

History

Major Professor

Jay C. Rubenstein

Committee Members

Thomas E. Burman, Jacob A. Latham, Laura L. Howes

Abstract

This dissertation reshapes our understanding of the mechanics of nation-building and the construction of national identities in the Middle Ages, placing medieval England in a wider European and Mediterranean context. I argue that a coherent English national identity, transcending the social and linguistic differences of the post-Norman Conquest period, took shape at the end of the twelfth century. A vital component of this process was the development of an ideology that intimately connected the geography, peoples, and mythical histories of England and the Holy Land. Proponents of this ideology envisioned England as an allegorical new Jerusalem inhabited by a chosen people, and believed that England’s twelfth-century kings were also destined to rule the terrestrial kingdom of Jerusalem in the Holy Land. Drawing upon biblical history, local legends, crusading ideology, and eschatological beliefs, twelfth-century English writers strove to associate England with the Holy Land not only through the crusade movement, but also in the greater scope of Christian and mythic history. The prime movers behind these developments were attached to the courts of the so-called Angevin kings of England—Henry II (r. 1154-89) and his sons Richard I (r. 1189-99) and John (r. 1199-1216)—who were also counts of Anjou in France (hence, Angevin). While historians have long recognized these rulers’ contributions to the development of government institutions such as the exchequer and common law, I call attention to a crucial ideological movement that underlay these bureaucratic innovations in England. Ultimately, I argue that the Angevins’ active participation in the wider political and intellectual movements of twelfth-century Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Near East was essential to the creation of a unified English identity.

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