28 November 2015

The Khagan Irregular: Explaining My Thesis to the Masses Since 2014 (2:13 – 29.11.2015)

It has been nearly four months since my last update and I must say that not much has been going on for me. We haven't gone on any trips. Uni life is fairly standard. I did present a short paper on Robert III, count of Beaumont-le-Roger during the Postgrad Showcase, but the scientists in the room were not really interested in it (almost everyone there were scientists). This coming week I will be volunteering to help for a symposium on Magna Carta (which celebrates its 800th anniversary this year) and a broader New Zealand Historical Association conference. For specific updates on our recent activities, check out Kara's blog: Amongst the Kiwis. I honestly don't have the time and interest anymore in specifically relating every event that's occurred in New Zealand. Plus, Kara is generally doing more than I am in any case.

Now the real reason for this post is that my advisor has finally given me a big thumbs up regarding progress on my thesis, which just passed the half-way point of the first draft two weeks ago. This joyful moment means that I can finally tell you all precisely what my thesis is about in a manner that hopefully makes sense to everybody. So here it goes...

Title: The Wilted Lily: The Capetian Dynastic Imperative in the Age of the Hundred Years War (1274 – 1464)
Summary: A long time ago in the kingdom of France, the royal family, called the Capetians, patronised the Abbey of Saint-Denis in the outskirts of Paris. By 1274, it had become the burial place for all French kings and many other members of the royal family. In a corner of the abbey, monks studiously and judiciously wrote and duplicated historical chronicles dating to the earliest times in French and Frankish history. One monk named Primat was commissioned to do something new, though: he was to create a GREAT CHRONICLE that related the entire history of France to the present time in French (well, Old French), rather than the traditional Latin. When he finished his work, it ended in the year 1223 when King Philippe Auguste died. Other monks continued where Primat left off, appending translations of the Life of Louis VIII and the Life of Saint Louis IX to the text, slowly but surely expanding it into the fourteenth century. The original text ended around 1328 with the accession of King Philippe VI de Valois. 
Things became more interesting after this because the monks began creating an entirely new story, independent of any previously-existing Latin manuscripts. Richard Lescot and Pierre d'Orgemont continued the chronicle to 1379, describing in detail the early years of the Hundred Years War between England and France. Jean Juvénal des Ursins then translated another Latin text and appended this to the continuation. And Jean Chartier wrote simultaneously a Latin and Middle French continuation, bringing the Grandes Chroniques, as it is now called, to about 1464. Thus, for almost two hundred years, this abbey and its monks wrote and continued a chronicle in the vernacular French language under royal guidance and patronage, therefore documenting a specifically pro-French history of France derived from contemporary sources and first-hand experiences. This achievement was unrivalled in Europe at the time. 
With this distinctly royal perspective in mind, it is my quest to discover specifically how the chroniclers portrayed members of the royal family during this period. How is the king and his family portrayed? How are the families of his siblings and uncles? And more importantly, how are relatives who defy royal authority portrayed? People like the duke of Brittany, the king of Navarre, the count of Beaumont-le-Roger, and, most importantly, the king of England. What do the chroniclers have to say about royals defying kingly authority?  
But my overriding question is more structural: when Primat first wrote the Grandes Chroniques around 1274, who did he focus on as the structural cores of the Capetian dynasty (answer Philippe Auguste and Saint Louis) and how did later kings and members of the dynasty relate their own actions and activities to the precedents set by their illustrious ancestors? Furthermore, did the pursuit of this precedent—this dynastic imperative—lead them to recklessly continue the Hundred Years War, or was the war something else unrelated to Capetian dynastic ambition?

That's it. That's the thesis. Ten chapters of discussing these questions and hoping that the conclusions I come to answer the research questions in the way I want. So far things have been looking good, but I still have a lot of work to do before it's perfect. For one, I have only embraced my current research style wholly in my previous chapter (although elements of it were incorporated in the chapter before) Re-writing chapters 1-3, therefore, will be important to my overall argument. However department policies are now making it so I only will probably turn in two drafts of each chapter, which is probably a good thing if I want to graduate on time. If I can finish the first draft of the thesis by mid-2016, then that will leave me with over a year to finish the second draft which will hopefully lead directly to a final draft. Only time will tell.

Anyway, let me know what you think and I'm happy to answer any further questions you may have. Cheers!

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