'Normanitas' Revisited: Reconsidering Norman Ethnicity, 996-1159
Chadwick, Thomas Harry
Date: 1 September 2017
University of Exeter
PhD in History
This thesis investigates the extent to which the Norman gens was understood by contemporaries to share agreed features of ethnic identity. The term Normanitas, associated with significant Latin descriptive traits, including ferox, ferus, bellicosus, audax, strennus, astutus and callidus, has been in use since the 1980s, when scholars ...
This thesis investigates the extent to which the Norman gens was understood by contemporaries to share agreed features of ethnic identity. The term Normanitas, associated with significant Latin descriptive traits, including ferox, ferus, bellicosus, audax, strennus, astutus and callidus, has been in use since the 1980s, when scholars identified a shared Norman ethnic identity dispersed across eleventh- and twelfth-century Europe. However, work on Normanitas fails to take into account insights from more recent research, led by Walter Pohl, on the construction of early medieval ethnic identity. This thesis explores whether Normanitas is the same across various boundaries of time and geographical space and to what extent it was a unique phenomenon or subject to outside influences. Is it distinctive from male elite military behaviour and traditional models from earlier non-Norman texts or a response to the contextual circumstances surrounding specific authors? I argue that a shared understanding of Norman identity is less consistent within these texts than previously suggested nor is it unique, being based on traditional classical, biblical and early medieval models concerning identity and ideal male military behaviour. The critical consensus of a distinct Norman ethnic identity known as Normanitas is, in fact, a misdiagnosis of a series of traditional models and typical medieval attitudes concerning the Normans as exemplars of a successful male-dominated military aristocracy and encouraged by the proliferation of Norman sources on their own terms. This research uncovers the complicated synthesis of topoi used to construct an authoritative masculine military identity that was commonly employed across ethnic boundaries and appealed strongly to diverse audiences because it incorporated long- established language that emphasised entertaining martial and heroic values. This thesis explores historical texts from Normandy, England, southern Italy, Sicily, Wales, France and Germany in the period 996-1159. Part One examines Normandy itself, identifying both core and peripheral texts that belong to a similar literary tradition but present divergent attitudes to Norman ethnicity. Parts Two and Three explore histories outside of Normandy which, through their aims, influences and contexts, demonstrate that Normanitas failed to be effectively exported to other Norman spheres of influence and beyond.
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