Medieval biographies and the geography of power: the Historia Gruffud vab Kenan
Jones, Rhys (Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences, University of Wales)
Journal of Historical Geography, 30 (2004)
In this paper, the author explores themes of legitimacy surrounding the production and consumption of medieval biographies. Generally speaking, these instances of life histories sought to promote and sustain relationships of power within medieval society. The many-layered themes of legitimacy which appear in such texts are discussed in the context of the biography of a 12th-century king of the Welsh kingdom of Gwynedd, the Historia Gruffud vab Kenan. This is a text that illustrates many of the far-reaching political and institutional changes that were occurring during the period. The version of history contained within the Historia, however, should not be seen as one which was wholly biased in favor of its subject, Gruffudd. Accordingly, the author argues that such texts should not be viewed as the ones that were purely invented in nature since the consumers of these life histories often possessed the ability to contest any obvious fabrications of past events contained within them. As such, the author suggests that we need to explore the relationship between the circumstances surrounding the production and the consumption of life histories if we are to gain a fuller appreciation of the historical geographies contained within them.