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The Idea of Chivalry in Eighteenth-Century Britain

Van Santvoort, JM; (2016) The Idea of Chivalry in Eighteenth-Century Britain. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London).

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This thesis seeks to explore the engagement with, and development of, the idea of chivalry in Great Britain, covering a period of over a century, from 1688 to roughly 1800. As a concept, chivalry is usually seen by historians and literary scholars as existing in its original incarnation during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and not experiencing a revival until the early Victorian period. This thesis challenges this traditional periodising, showing that chivalry was widely used and understood as historically significant during the eighteenth century in England, Scotland and Ireland. Studying chivalry as an idea, this thesis examines the works of poets, historians, scholars and politicians such as Gilbert West, Richard Hurd, William Robertson, Lord Lyttelton and Edmund Burke. This broad selection and the long period covered provide insight into the widespread diffusion of chivalry, the changes evident in the opinions held about the concept as the century progresses, and the variety of uses and interpretations it experienced. The several chapters cover literature before and after 1750, historiography in Scotland and England, and politics during the 1790s. At the core of the thesis is the extent to which chivalry played a role in the development and idealisation of a British canon of literature and history, as well as in the development of an Anglo-centric British national identity, which rooted its modernity in historical concepts and which was elitist, martial, paternalistic, Gothic and honourable. At the same time, it shows the connections between Britain and the states of the European continent, especially France, which played a powerful part in British reengagement with chivalry. This reveals that created concepts of Britishness were not always synonymous with Francophobia, but could rather also result from constructions based on a positive self-image, founded on imagined historical examples and concepts.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: The Idea of Chivalry in Eighteenth-Century Britain
Event: UCL (University College London
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of History
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1475930
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