By Robert A. Albano
Dong Hwa Journal of Humanistic Studies, No.2 (2000)
Abstract: The Chronicle by Thomas of Castleford, which was written in the fourteenth century in the Middle English vernacular, provides an intersting complement to other vernacular chronicles of the same time. Although Castleford’s work covers many of the same contemporary events as these other chronicles, it does not duplicate the accounts. Three episodes deal specifically with the war between England and Scotland. These episodes indicate that Thomas de Castleford employed several of the same techniques and themes utilized by his contemporary historiographers. More importantly, they reveal the unique mind of a historiographer engaged in an act of historic imagination.
The constant turmoil that England suffered from 1307 to 1327 resulted in King Edward II being one of the most unpopular rulers in the history of England. Although it was not unusual for a chronicler such as Castleford to denounce both the unpopular actions and the advisors who betrayed Edward II and all of England, it was unusual for a chronicler to take such a direct stand against the king himself. Castleford’s comments are all the more remarkable since he began writing at a time when King Edward II was still in power. More remarkable still in Castleford’s historiography are the lack of positive commentary in regards to Edward I and, especially, the negative handling that Edward I receives in the Berwick episode. Castleford’s connection to Yorkshire factions opposed to the king would be the most logical explanation for Thomas of Castleford’s lukewarm and often negative treatment of both Edward I and Edward II. But that, in turn, might also explain the lukewarm and negative reception that Castleford’s Chronicle received in England, causing Castleford’s historiography to become the lost chronicle of England.