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Archbishop Wulfstan of York is among the most important legal and political thinkers of the early Middle Ages. A leading ecclesiastic, innovative legislator, and influential royal councilor, Wulfstan witnessed firsthand the violence and social unrest that culminated in the fall of the English monarchy before the invading armies of Cnut in 1016. This book introduces the range of Wulfstan's political writings and sheds light on the development of English law during the early eleventh century. In his homilies and legal tracts, Wulfstan offered a searing indictment of the moral failures that led to England’s collapse and formulated a vision of an ideal Christian community that would influence English political thought long after the Anglo-Saxon period had ended. More than just dry political theory, however, Wulfstan’s works are composed in the distinctive voice of someone who was both a confidante of kings and a preacher of apocalyptic fervour. No other source so vividly portrays the political life of eleventh-century England: what it was, and what one man believed it could be.
The documents in this section consist of Wulfstan’s political tracts, those texts the archbishop composed either for public circulation or as private memoranda with the purpose of articulating or advocating for some aspect of his social vision.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in this book and background on Archbishop Wulfstan and the translated texts. The book introduces the range of Archbishop Wulfstan's political writings and sheds light on the development of English law during the early eleventh century. Understanding the origins of Wulfstan's political thought requires some knowledge of the troubled history of later Anglo-Saxon England. The book contains those homilies and homiletic fragments most closely related to Wulfstan's political writings. It includes sources and analogues of Wulfstan's political writings, such as other instances of his homiletic prose, examples of formal royal legislation produced under his supervision, and texts showing his influence. The homilies offer a useful illustration of what Wulfstan understood this role to entail and how he sought to fulfil his joint legal and episcopal obligations.
The documents in this section consist of those homilies and homiletic fragments most closely related to Wulfstan’s political writings.
This documents in this section include sources and analogues of Wulfstan’s political writings, such as other instances of his homiletic prose, examples of formal royal legislation produced under his supervision, and texts showing his influence.