Constructing Communities: Identification and Self-Understanding in the Twelfth-Century North of England
By Benjamin Lacey
PhD Dissertation, University of Sheffield, 2014
Abstract: This is a study of local communities in the north of England between 1069 and 1200. It examines the way these communities were constructed, imagined and perceived by contemporary individuals. This involves a consideration of the narratives, actions and ideas that allowed people to understand who they were and to identify with others.
In the course of this inquiry, certain methods of historical practice and approaches to the narrative source material are discussed and debated. As for methods, the thesis demonstrates the utility of analysing the processes and relationships that underlay perceived ‘identities’.
By building on recent work in the humanities and social sciences, this study conducts a close reading of a small number of carefully selected texts. With these aims in mind, each chapter examines a different element that was vital to the processes by which people identified with one another and communities were formed. The way the past was conceived and history constructed is the subject of the first. The second focuses on local saints’ cults. Hermits and priests are considered in chapter three. The end result is an analysis that seeks to examine the interface between the authors of certain twelfth-century texts and the people whose stories they recorded. Through doing so, this work aims to reveal more about the way local communities were constructed.