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William of Newburgh, 'History of the Affairs of the English'

William of Newburgh, 'History of the Affairs of the English'

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1200

Shelfmark: Cotton MS Vespasian B VI

Item number: f.111r

Length: 25

Width: 19.5

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Manuscript

Osney was the site of an important Augustinian priory, a community of priests who followed the rule of monastic life (Austin canons regular). Founded in 1122, the priory became a highly regarded school for theologians and influenced the development of the university at Oxford. This manuscript, which originally belonged to Osney abbey, has a copy of the 'History of the Affairs of the English' ('Historia Rerum Anglicarum') by William of Newburgh (1136-1198). William wrote history in the tradition of Bede. He tried to connect events and evaluate the characters and actions that brought them about but avoided filling out a narrative with legends like his contemporary Geoffrey of Monmouth, of whom he was scathingly critical. His 'History' covers the reigns of English kings from William the Conqueror to Richard the Lionheart, 1066 to 1198.

The history begins with William's letter to Abbot Ernaldus of Rievaulx, as identified by the red inscription (rubric) at the top of the 1st column. In the second column, a list gives the titles of the book's chapters, beginning with William the Conqueror. Several chapters are devoted to the reign of King Stephen.

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