Rebecca Thomas

Thomas, Rebecca, History and identity in early medieval Wales, Studies in Celtic History 44, Woodbridge, Suffolk, Rochester, New York: D. S. Brewer, 2022.  
Introduction -- 1. Names, territories, and kingdoms -- 2. Language -- 3. Origin legends I: the Britons -- 4. Origin legends II: Legitimate and illegitimate migration -- 5. Asser and the origins of Alfred's kingdom -- Conclusions.

Early medieval writers viewed the world as divided into gentes ("peoples"). These were groups that could be differentiated from each other according to certain characteristics - by the language they spoke or the territory they inhabited, for example. The same writers played a key role in deciding which characteristics were important and using these to construct ethnic identities. This book explores this process of identity construction in texts from early medieval Wales, focusing primarily on the early ninth-century Latin history of the Britons (Historia Brittonum), the biography of Alfred the Great composed by the Welsh scholar Asser in 893, and the tenth-century vernacular poem Armes Prydein Vawr ("The Great Prophecy of Britain"). It examines how these writers set about distinguishing between the Welsh and the other gentes inhabiting the island of Britain through the use of names, attention to linguistic difference, and the writing of history and origin legends. Crucially important was the identity of the Welsh as Britons, the rightful inhabitants of the entirety of Britain; its significance and durability are investigated, alongside its interaction with the emergence of an identity focused on the geographical unit of Wales.

Guy, Ben, Georgia Henley, Owain Wyn Jones, and Rebecca Thomas (eds), The chronicles of medieval Wales and the March: new contexts, studies, and text, Medieval Texts and Cultures of Northern Europe 31, Brepols, 2020.  
This book offers a collection of new studies on the chronicles of medieval Wales and the March, supported by synoptic pieces placing the tradition of chronicle writing in Wales within the context of historical writing on a broader scale. The volume is accompanied by five editions and translations of little-known texts written in Latin and Medieval Welsh.

The chronicles of medieval Wales are a rich body of source material offering an array of perspectives on historical developments in Wales and beyond. Preserving unique records of events from the fifth to the fifteenth centuries, these chronicles form the essential narrative backbone of all modern accounts of medieval Welsh history. Most celebrated of all are the chronicles belonging to the Annales Cambriae and Brut y Tywysogyon families, which document the tumultuous struggles between the Welsh princes and their Norman and English neighbours for control over Wales.

Building on foundational studies of these chronicles by J. E. Lloyd, Thomas Jones, Kathleen Hughes, and others, this book seeks to enhance understanding of the texts by refining and complicating the ways in which they should be read as deliberate literary and historical productions. The studies in this volume make significant advances in this direction through fresh analyses of well-known texts, as well as through full studies, editions, and translations of five chronicles that had hitherto escaped notice.
Thomas, Rebecca, “Geoffrey of Monmouth and the English past”, in: Smith, Joshua Byron, and Georgia Henley (eds), A companion to Geoffrey of Monmouth, Brill's Companions to European History 22, Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2020. 105–128.
Thomas, Rebecca, “The Vita Alcuini, Asser and scholarly service at the court of Alfred the Great”, The English Historical Review 134:566 (February, 2019): 1–24.  
Asser’s Life of King Alfred, a biography of Alfred the Great composed by a Welsh monk from St David’s in 893, is a key source for understanding connections between ninth-century Britain and the Continent. Asser’s biography draws on a variety of continental sources, the most famous and widely discussed being Einhard’s Vita Karoli. This article examines parallels between Asser’s Life of King Alfred and another, more obscure, continental source, the anonymous ninth-century Vita Alcuini, a text which has received little scholarly attention. Unlike many of his Carolingian counterparts, Asser’s biography features himself as a major character, providing an account of his journey to Alfred’s service. It has been noted by various scholars that this autobiographical section of the Life bears great similarity to the Vita Alcuini’s description of Alcuin entering the service of Charlemagne. This article provides a thorough examination of the two texts, assessing the possibility of a connection, and investigating the implications for our understanding of Asser and his agenda. As there is no manuscript evidence that the Vita Alcuini ever made it to Britain, this study has the potential to transform our understanding of its transmission and readership in the early Middle Ages, illuminating a further connection Britain England and the continent in the ninth century.
Thomas, Rebecca, “Remembering the ‘Old North’ in ninth- and tenth-century Wales”, Peritia 29 (2018): 179–199.  

This article takes a fresh look at how the memory of the ‘Old North’ was used and reshaped in early medieval Welsh sources. Although their value as historical evidence for the northern kingdoms is uncertain, these sources give us precious insight into how early Welsh writers perceived themselves as a people. Focusing on Historia Brittonum and Armes Prydein Vawr this study demonstrates the multiplicity of memories of the ‘Old North’ in early medieval Wales, with writers freely adapting the past to their present ends.

Thomas, Rebecca, and David Callander, “Reading Asser in early medieval Wales: the evidence of Armes Prydein Vawr”, Anglo-Saxon England 46 (2017): 115–145.


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