Mediating English historical evolution in Charles Kingsley's Hereward the Wake (1866)

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From the Reformation onwards, English historiography exhibited mixed emotions about the pre-Conquest era. There was proud respect for the ‘liberty’ and ‘independence’ in ancient English laws and institutions, but also contempt for the perceived weakness of later Anglo-Saxon rulers, often attributed to monkish influence. Charles Kingsley’s choice of an eleventh-century East Anglian of Danish descent as his avatar of true Englishness in Hereward the Wake (1866) is emotionally significant in this context. Kingsley shapes his account of English historical evolution around inter-related factors of race, gender, environment and language. These make the medieval past indicative for him of later developments, as part of a providentialist historical pattern in which the 'Teuton' is the saviour of Europe. Kingsley’s partisan use of sources for Hereward illustrates the broader picture of Victorian emotional attitudes to the Middle Ages, in ways that involve comparison with Paul Kingsnorth’s The Wake (2014) and suggest a strong continuity in English anxieties about relations with Continental Europe.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEmotions in Late Modernity
EditorsRoger Patulny, Alberto Bellocchi, Rebecca Olson, Sukhmani Khorana, Jordan McKenzie, Michelle Peterie
Place of PublicationAbingdon
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781351133319
ISBN (Print)9780815354321
Publication statusPublished - 14 Feb 2019

Publication series

NameRoutledge Studies in the Sociology of Emotions


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