Barrows in the cultural imagination of later Medieval England

PhD Thesis

Hawker-Yates, L. 2019. Barrows in the cultural imagination of later Medieval England. PhD Thesis Canterbury Christ Church University School of Humanities
AuthorsHawker-Yates, L.
TypePhD Thesis
Qualification nameDoctorate of Philsophy

When history has gone beyond memory, and where there is little or no written record, then objects in the landscape are used and interpreted in order both to understand the past, and to tie the past to the present. This thesis explores the places of barrows in the cultural imagination of later medieval England, following the interdisciplinary approaches of Sarah Semple (Perceptions of the Prehistoric in Anglo-Saxon England: Religion, Ritual, and Rulership in the Landscape, 2013) and Anwen Cooper (Other Types of Meaning: Relationships between Round Barrows and Landscapes from 1500 BC-AC 1086, 2016). This thesis identifies and examines a range of historical sources to explore an area of research which has not previously been studied in depth.

Whilst it is the case that barrows appear in texts relatively infrequently during the later medieval period, this thesis argues that these references were included specifically because they had significance and meaning both for the writer and the intended audience. Those writers who included barrows in their work anticipated that their intended audience would be able to recognise them, and to be aware of their significance. The intended audience for many of the texts discussed in this thesis was primarily aristocratic elites and the clergy, and therefore the texts speak to their interests and concerns, with barrows often being connected to themes of exemplary kingship. The past is also used to talk about the present; here barrows become symbols of the past, both ‘historic’, and at times mythical, having links to the supernatural.

They act as focal points through which wider, contemporary issues can be explored, thus allowing authors access to the past and to a landscape onto which they can project the concerns of the present, and therefore talk about them more freely

KeywordsBarrows; Cultural imagination; Medieval England
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Publication process dates
Deposited25 Sep 2020
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