How ideas and ideals of an imagined, protean, national Middle Ages have once again become a convergence point for anxieties about politics, history and cultural identity in our time - and why.
After a period of abeyance, the link forged in the nineteenth century between the Middle Ages and national identity is increasingly being reclaimed, with numerous groups and individuals mining an imagined medieval past to present ideas and ideals of modern nationhood. Today's national medievalism asserts itself at the interface of culture and politics: in literature and television programming, in journalism and heritage tourism, and in the way political actors of various stripes use a deep past that supposedly proves the nation's steady exceptionalism in a hectic globalised world.
This book traces these ongoing developments in Switzerland and Britain, two countries where the medieval past has recently been much invoked in negotiations of national identity, independence and Euroscepticism. Through comparative analysis, it explores examples of reemerging stories of national exceptionalism - stories that, ironically, echo those of other nations. The author analyses depictions of Robert the Bruce and Wilhelm Tell; medievalism in the discourse surrounding Brexit as well as at the Welsh Senedd; novels like Paul Kingsnorth's The Wake; community-based art such as the Great Tapestry of Scotland; and elaborate public commemorations of Swiss victories (and defeats) in battle. Basing his critical readings in current theories of cultural memory, heritage and nationalism, the author explores how the protean national Middle Ages have once again become a convergence point for anxieties about politics, history and cultural identity in our time - and why.