The Battle of the Books: An Attack on Nationalism

The Battle of the Books: An Attack on Nationalism

Roche, Francine

Medieval Forum Vol. 6 (2007)

Near the end of his reign, Henry VII commissioned Polydore Vergil to write a history of England. By the time Vergil’s Anglica Historia was published, Henry had died, and Vergil found himself embroiled in a debate with John Leland, an antiquarian under the patronage of Henry VIII. At the center of “The Battle of the Books” was Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia regum Britanniae. Vergil, searching for Britain’s true history, diminished the importance of Geoffrey’s work and main hero, Arthur. Leland, as a nationalist, countered that Arthur symbolized the Tudor ideals of Old England and Britishness.

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