Realistic Observation in Twelfth-Century England

  title={Realistic Observation in Twelfth-Century England},
  author={Antonia Gransden},
  pages={29 - 51}
T. D. KENDRICK has already commented on "nascent medieval topography" (which he describes as "rather casual") in England, and cites examples of topographical descriptions from chronicles.' It is proposed here to examine in more detail the ability of medieval writers in twelfth-century England to see and describe the world around them. Besides topographical observation, I shall include observation of small objects (such as goldsmiths' work and books), of mankind itself (people's physical… 

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In his Gesta pontificum Anglorum (hereafter GP) the Benedictine monk and historian William of Malmesbury (c.1090—c.1142) recorded the history of English dioceses, their monuments, saints, and relics.

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Abstract An early thirteenth‐century manuscript (Dublin, N.L.I. 700) of two works of Giraldus Cambrensis (Gerald of Wales, c.1146‐c.l223) also contains a map of Europe, of which no close parallels

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In the preface to his Topographia Hibernica, written in 1188 for Henry II (“our western Alexander”), Gerald of Wales claimed that: Sicut enim orientales plage propriis quibusdam et sibi innatis


  • D. Keene
  • History
    Transactions of the Royal Historical Society
  • 2008
ABSTRACT Focusing on London, the paper discusses the interaction between theoretical, descriptive and quasi-historical writing about cities, a growing capacity to visualise city landscape and

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After the devastating fire of 1184, the Lady Chapel of Glastonbury Abbey was constructed on the site of the Old Church (Vetusta Ecclesia), the wattle church traditionally associated with Joseph of

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Abstract By playing on the Classical belief that urbanity is a sign of civility, urbanism has often been used by Europeans to characterize the «other» as uncivilized. In the twelfth century,

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This story is fully discussed by

    For the poem and the topography (which dates from the late seventh or early eighth century) see ibid. iI. cxxi-ii, and

    • Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, xLviii
    • 1966

    The laudatory attitude to cities in classical literature is well represented by Aelius Aristides' Roman Oration; printed in tianslation by

    • The Ruling Power (Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, new sensies, XLIII

    See Fitz Stephen's description of London in his Life of Saint Thomas in Materials for the History of Thomas Becket

      Gerald of Wales retired to Lincoln to write and study in 1196; Giraldus, i. 93, and Butler, op. cit. p. 127 and n. 2. Map was precentor of Lincoln

        Gerald's knowledge of natural history is fully discussed by U. T. Holmes

        • 136 Giraldus, v-ii. 74. 187 Life of St Hugh
        • 1936

        Diceto studied in Paris, probably at the university and had other close contacts with France and the Angevin empire; see The Historical Works of Master Ralph de Diceto

          Gerald accompanies this description with details about its habits, how "it would fly over the surface of the river, beating the water with its wings, and giving vent to loud cries

            For the bridge see C. Port, Dictionnaire Historique Geographique et Bibliographique