The Elizabethan Invention of Anglo-Saxon England

The Elizabethan Invention of Anglo-Saxon England

Laurence Nowell, William Lambarde, and the Study of Old English

Rebecca Brackmann





The writings of two influential Elizabethan thinkers testify to the influence of Old English law and literature on Tudor society and self-image.
"Full of fresh and illuminating insights into a way of looking at the English past in the sixteenth century... a book with the potential to deepen and transform our understanding of Tudor attitudes to ethnic identity and the national past." Philip Schwyzer, University of Exeter.

Laurence Nowell (1530-c.1570), author of the first dictionary of Old English, and William Lambarde (1536-1601), Nowell's protégé and eventually the first editor of the Old English Laws, are key figures in Elizabethan historical discourses and in its political and literary society; through their work the period between the Germanic migrations and the Norman Conquest came to be regarded as a foundational time for Elizabethan England, overlapping with and contributing to contemporary debates on the shape of Elizabethan English language. Their studies took different strategies in demonstrating the role of early medieval history in Elizabethan national -- even imperial -- identity, while in Lambarde's legal writings Old English law codes become identical with the "ancient laws" that underpinned contemporary common law. Their efforts contradict the assumption that Anglo-Saxon studies did not effectively participate in Tudor nationalism outside of Protestant polemic; instead, it was a vital part of making history "English". Their work furthers our understanding of both the history of medieval studies and the importance of early Anglo-Saxon studies to Tudor nationalism.

Rebecca Brackmann is Assistant Professor of English, Lincoln Memorial University.


June 2012
3 black and white illustrations
256 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Studies in Renaissance Literature
ISBN: 9781843843184
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
BISAC LIT019000, HIS054000, LIT004120
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Table of Contents

The Anglo-Saxonists and Their Books: Print, Manuscript, and the Circulation of Scholarship
The AbcedariumGlossary: Sources and Methods of Nowell's Old English Lexicography
Inkhorns, Orthographers, and Antiquaries: Standardized English and the Dawn of Anglo-Saxon Studies
Somewhere in Time: The Abcedarium Place-Name Index
Putting the Past in Place: Lambarde's Alphabetical Description and Perambulation of Kent
Images and Imaginings of England
"The Saxons, our Ancestors": Ancient Law and Old English Laws
Conclusion: The Invention of Anglo-Saxon English


A sound, scholarly study. PARERGON

An excellent book containing a wealth of information on Tudor England's intellectual engagement with Anglo-Saxon England. . I recommend it highly to Anglo-Saxon scholars, Renaissance scholars, and also general readers with an interest in the development of the English language. SIXTEENTH CENTURY JOURNAL

Meticulously researched and engagingly written. NOTES AND QUERIES

Offers a fresh perspective on the historiography of Old English studies in the sixteenth century. . An excellent, interesting book which is a must-read for anyone interested in the mediaeval and the early modern approaches to the history of Old English Studies. ANGLIA, 2013, 131 (1)

An excellent place to begin for background information on the earliest Anglo-Saxonists and the role of Anglo-Saxon studies in early modern England. MEDIEVALLY SPEAKING

The invention of Anglo-Saxon England, then (...) was an integral part of a nationalistic movement that went beyond religious polemic. Brackmann's book shows why ignoring the Anglo-Saxons is a myopic enterprise. It has obscured the real and complex contours of what the Elizabethans thought constituted English identity and the English past. RENAISSANCE QUARTERLY

(S)imultaneously expansive in scope and painstaking in detail. Brackmann negotiates the delicate balance with meticulous care, and her conclusions are appropriately cautious when evidence warrants. THE MEDIEVAL REVIEW

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