In the later Middle Ages, England found itself entangled in a long and bitter war with France. So why did English writers during the Hundred Years' War choose to celebrate the story of a king of the Franks? Dr Marco Nievergelt investigates of the English and Comparative Literature Department investigates in BBC History magazine.
When historical figures are able to captivate the imagination of later generations, resonating with contemporary ideals, values, concerns, or anxieties, they can acquire a mythical status. But what is it exactly that makes particular figures suitable material for later mythmaking? In the case of heavily mythologised figures, the relevance of historical ‘facts’ is often limited. Indeed, too much historical detail actually inhibits mythmaking: somewhat paradoxically, it is precisely the undefined, uncertain and unknown nature of individual figures that accounts for their powerful hold on the collective imagination. The very vagueness of the ideas attached to a particular historical figure allows them to be celebrated, reinvented and re-imagined. It can also see them appropriated for a wide variety of political, ideological, or propagandist purposes.
Read more in BBC History Magazine, Charlemagne: creating the myth
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