Translatio Studii et Imperii: The Transfer of Knowledge and Power in the Hundred Years War

Title: Translatio Studii et Imperii: The Transfer of Knowledge and Power in the Hundred Years War
Authors: Wilson, Emma-Catherine
Date: 2022-06-13
Embargo: 2024-06-13
Abstract: This thesis is an examination of English evocations of translatio studii et imperii during the Hundred Years War. According to the myth of translatio, intellectual and martial superiority were entwined and together moving ever-westwards, from Athens, to Rome, to Paris, and thence - the English claimed - to England. This study contributes to an understanding of how late-fourteenth- and fifteenth-century English aristocrats and clerics understood and legitimized their cultural struggle with France not only as a martial battle but also as an intellectual competition. It also explores how this struggle contributed to the cultural authority of libraries and book collections. The first chapter of this thesis traces the development of the translatio studii et imperii tradition from its ancient origins to its zenith in the reign King Charles V "the Wise" of France. This chapter serves to establish the historiographical implications of the translatio myth as well as the French translatio tradition to which the English responded. The second chapter of this study is devoted to a literary analysis of texts which explicitly evoke the translatio topos and which were composed or copied in England during the Hundred Years War, such as Bishop Richard de Bury's Philobiblon and Ranulf Higden's Polychronicon, as well as Oxford and Cambridge university foundation myths. The third chapter explores the extent to which late-medieval England's book culture resonated with English evocations of translatio. Central to this exploration is the underhanded acquisition of Charles V's monumental French royal library by the English regent of France, John, Duke of Bedford. As is attested in the writings of French court scholars, the monumental French royal library was held to symbolise France's cultural superiority over England during the Hundred Years War. Bedford's manoeuvre can be seen as a bid to transfer Europe's seat of learning, and by extant of power, to England. This thesis concludes with a consideration of the translatio myth's ambivalent implications for contentious master narratives such as the rise of nationalism and of the English language in late-medieval England.
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