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Durham e-Theses
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The Collective Self-Representation of Ethnicity in Anglo-Saxon England (886-1066) and Medieval Iceland (1100-1264)

MARLOW, KATHARINE,HARRIET (2021) The Collective Self-Representation of Ethnicity in Anglo-Saxon England (886-1066) and Medieval Iceland (1100-1264). Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Author-imposed embargo until 25 November 2024.


This thesis examines the collective self-representation of ethnicity in Anglo-Saxon England and medieval Iceland. It takes its cue from the definitions of ethnicity developed by scholars of ethnogenesis, but departs from that scholarship by using solely texts as source evidence. Ethnicity is not seen as a static characteristic, rather the product of an ongoing process of identification. It is not ethnicity itself that is being studied here, but rather the collective acts of ethnic identification made by the two groups. As the Anglo-Saxons and Icelanders both produced a significant body of written sources, it is possible to study collective self-representation by viewing the production of texts as acts of identification. These acts of identification produced ethnicity by defining the characteristics that group members shared and those that made them different from other groups.

This thesis studies four categories of characteristic: origin, language, religion and law. By examining how the elite of each group used texts to express their shared characteristics, it is possible to establish not only how ethnicity was represented, but also why it was represented in these ways. Through close reading of texts and strong historical contextualisation, it is possible to identify exactly how the elites of these groups wanted to portray their ethnic identity. The representation of ethnicity created the impression internal unity and also allowed these groups to interact with other groups through the expression of similarity and difference. Fundamentally, ethnic identification is a matter of belief in the existence of the group, and the approach taken here allows the formation and promulgation of this belief to be understood. This thesis explores the specific circumstances under which groups chose to make certain identifications, uncovering the links between culture, context and history in the representation of ethnicity and demonstrating the power of ethnicity as a political tool.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Medieval; Anglo-Saxon; Icelandic; Ethnicity
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > History, Department of
Thesis Date:2021
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:25 Nov 2021 17:32

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