Bede’s Mapping of England

Bede’s Mapping of England

By Diane Speed

Travel and Travellers from Bede to Dampier, edited by Geraldine Barnes with Gabrielle Singleton (Cambridge Scholars Press, 2005)

Synopsis: Modern historians of mapping have assumed a wide understanding of what ‘map’ might mean.  With regard to medieval texts, the idea is understood to embrace a range of genres that includes, for example, world maps, zonal diagrams, land surveys, itineraries, street plans, and architectural drawings.  At the same time, it may refer to either visual or verbal texts.

Bede’s name has been invoked in scholarly discussion of medieval maps in connection with his De locis sanctis (On the Holy Places) and his De temporum ratione (On the Calculalion of Time), but thus far his magnuns opus has remained outside such discussion.  This paper, however, will argue that mapping is central to the meaning of Bede’s Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (Ecclesiastical History of the English People) and substantially informs the narrative structure which advances that meaning.

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