The Matter of Britain and the Matter of England
Professor Davies considers the way in which an authoritative and monopolistic English version of Britain's past came to be established in the twelfth century. He shows that it was a patriotic, regnal, and political interpretation and one which treated the pre-English history of Britain, in spite of the best efforts of Geoffrey of Monmouth, as simply a curtain-raiser to the English saga. This Anglo-centric interpretation marginalized, or completely overlooked, much of the histories of the rest of Britain and its various peoples. It was given its academic apotheosis in the history sy llabuses established at Oxford and elsewhere in the years 1866-86. Professor Davies concludes his lecture by saying that the time is now ripe to approach the history of Britain in a more comparative and pluralistic way.
Dr Rees Davies is Chichele Professor of Medieval History; he delivered his inaugural lecture before the University of Oxford on 29 February 1996.