By Alistair Millar
PhD Dissertation, University of Edinburgh, 1996
Abstract: The principal aim of the thesis is to give a detailed analysis of the career and literary output of the Burgundian courtier and chronicler, Olivier de la Marche, within the context of the political and cultural milieu of the Burgundian court in the second half of the fifteenth century. There is a full and comprehensive survey of the progression of la Marche’s career under the last two Valois Dukes of Burgundy and their Habsburg successors, and this simultaneously attempts to shed some light on the world of the princely court in the late medieval period. Consideration of la Marche’s major achievements as a diplomat, bureaucrat, counsellor, and military captain is given, as well as a detailed survey of his role as the stage-manager responsible for some of the magnificent fetes which characterised the Burgundian court during this period.
Consideration is also given to the ways in which la Marche’s career was shaped by the changing political circumstances of his times, particularly in the years that followed the death of the last of the Valois dukes and the accession of the Habsburgs to their inheritance. There is also a detailed examination of la Marche’s literary output. Attention is devoted to analysing the nature of his works, the manner in which they came to be written, the personal and professional experiences as well as the literary influences that acted upon him, and the objectives behind their composition. Some comment is made about the identity of both the perceived and actual audience of these works.
The thesis also endeavours to demonstrate the ways in which some of this literature can be interpreted as both a response to and an attempt to shape the political and cultural milieu in which it was circulating, and how an understanding of it can enhance our knowledge of some of the wider historical developments of the later part of the fifteenth century.