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Date Permissions Signed


Date of Award

Fall 2015

Document Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Diehl, Peter D.

Second Advisor

Eurich, S. Amanda, 1956-

Third Advisor

Murphy, Sean Eisen


The present study examines the question of pre-modern national identity and its association with language in medieval England from the mid-twelfth to early fourteenth century, particularly the use of language to express collective identity. In doing so, the use and meaning associated with the three languages of medieval England (English, French, and Latin) are explored through an interdisciplinary approach, using typical historical sources, while also drawing on primary and secondary source material from literary history. Chapter one looks at the changing and reshaping of English national identity following the Norman Conquest of 1066, focusing on assimilation and identity conflict from the mid-twelfth to the early thirteenth century. It concludes by illustrating the development of a collective English identity, the sense of which shared a commonality presented by writers in all three languages. In this chapter, each language is treated separately so as to examine the specific social, cultural, and political associations with the languages and how they inform on matters of identity formation and change over time. The second chapter focuses on the personal reign of Henry III and the baronial reforms and rebellions of the 1260s. Here, the questions of national identity and the meaning of being an Englishman are examined through primary sources written in all three languages of England. Through this, the chapter highlights a moment in the 1260s that represents the collectiveness of the English nation represented in terms of a shared commonality, primarily through a shared history, culture, and customs, but also through their shared English language. The third and final chapter explores changes to English national identity present in the three languages in the reign of Edward I (r. 1272-1307). During his reign, French and Latin writers increasingly expressed their English national identity through the “otherness” of the peoples that surrounded them: most important for this study the French, Welsh, and Scots. In comparison, English vernacular writers began to frame their own sense of English national identity by way of social division, represented by status and education. What is termed the “divided community” is examined through the reading of French and Latin chronicles that speak to the separation of the English people through imperialist conquests as the hallmark of national identity, and English vernacular sources which illustrate an internal separateness, one that is not new, but different from the division present after the Norman Conquest. Overall, the study highlights the discrepant experience of English national identity during the period and how the choice of using one language over the other two implied and actively emphasized different senses of English identity.





Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Subjects – Names (LCNAF)

Henry III, 1216-1272; Edward I, 1272-1307

Subject – LCSH

Group identity--Great Britain--History--To 1500; Assimilation (Sociology)--Great Britain--History--To 1500; Language and culture--Great Britain; Languages in contact--Great Britain; Great Britain--Languages; Normans--Great Britain; Anglo-Saxons; Great Britain--History--Norman period, 1066-1154; Great Britain--History--Henry III, 1216-1272; Great Britain--History--Edward I, 1272-1307

Geographic Coverage

Great Britain




masters theses




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