Forging Links with the Past: the twelfth-century reconstruction of Anglo-Saxon Peterborough

Forging Links with the Past: the twelfth-century reconstruction of Anglo-Saxon Peterborough

By Avril Margaret Morris
PhD Dissertation, University of Leicester, 2006

Abstract: This thesis is a study of four early twelfth-century forgeries, comprising a house-history, two charters and a papal bull and how they were used by the monks of Peterborough to reconstruct their monastery’s pre-Conquest past. The texts survive as copies in the mid twelfth-century Peterborough cartulary known as the Liber Niger, under the rubric ‘Relatio hedde abbatis quomodo incipente christianitate in regione mediterraneorum Anglorum initiatum sit Medeshamstede monasterium et subsequentibus priuilegiis confirmatum’.

Chapter One contains a survey of the medieval sources preserved in the Peterborough archive and a review of their historiography. Chapter Two analyses the forgeries’ contents, the motives behind their production, their sources and the identity of their forger. Chapter Three discusses Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, MS E Hand l’s interpretation of the forgeries, his ethnicity, sources and understanding of his Anglo-Saxon heritage in relation to national events.

Chapter 4 assesses Hugh Candidus interpolation of the forgeries into his Chronicle, Hugh’s research and his reconstruction of Peterborough’s Anglo-Saxon past. Chapter Five explores Peterborough’s monastic boundaries prescribed in pseudo-Wulfhere’s charter of 664 and their relationship with the twelfth-century landscape. Chapter Six assesses the estates and routes of toll bestowed upon Peterborough by pseudo-Eadgar’s charter of 972 and their correlation with the prouincix. of the neighbouring fenland monasteries of Crowland, Thorney and Ramsey.

An examination of the Relatio texts in conjunction with archaeological, etymological, topographical and contemporary documentary evidence has led to the conclusion that the forgeries were probably compiled between 1109 and 1114 either by or at the instigation of Abbot EmuIf. Although the privileges conferred by the charter were fabricated to suit the early twelfth-century Peterborough’s circumstances, certain elements are based upon authentic pre-Conquest sources, which also influenced MS E Hand l’s and Hugh Candidus’ reconstructions of Peterborough’s Anglo-Saxon past.

Click here to read this thesis from the University of Leicester

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