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The Middle Ages in the Modern WorldTwenty-first century perspectives$
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Bettina Bildhauer and Chris Jones

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780197266144

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197266144.001.0001

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War, Church, Empire and the Medieval in British Histories for Children

War, Church, Empire and the Medieval in British Histories for Children

Chapter:
(p.87) 4 War, Church, Empire and the Medieval in British Histories for Children
Source:
The Middle Ages in the Modern World
Author(s):

Andrew Lynch

Publisher:
British Academy
DOI:10.5871/bacad/9780197266144.003.0005

From the mid-eighteenth century onward, histories of England written for children became a very popular literary genre, attempted by authors as various as Oliver Goldsmith, Jane Austen, William Godwin, Charles Dickens, John Ruskin and H. E. Marshall (Our Island Story, 1905). This chapter investigates how these histories typically represent the Middle Ages to children through themes of war, violence and religion, within a long-range view of the nation and empire slowly developing beyond archaism. Medieval war is sometimes depicted as barbaric, but also read as a sign of racial spirit. Medieval religion, especially monastic culture, receives a more generally hostile reaction. The medievalism of most writers – Ruskin is a telling exception – frames the period as a dark prelude to Reformation and the later growth of Great Britain through the assertion of regal and parliamentary power.

Keywords:   history, children, medievalism, war, religion, Oliver Goldsmith, William Godwin, Charles Dickens, John Ruskin

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