Into the Wild West: Two Twelfth-Century Clerics' Views of Medieval Brittany

Livingstone, Amy (2022) Into the Wild West: Two Twelfth-Century Clerics' Views of Medieval Brittany. In: Author, Worldview and Identity in Medieval Europe. Routledge, London and New York, pp. 219-237. ISBN 9780367457662

Full content URL:

Into the Wild West: Two Twelfth-Century Clerics' View of Medieval Brittany
This is the Author's final draft of the chapter

Request a copy
[img] PDF
Into the West - Livingstone_final.pdf - Whole Document
Restricted to Repository staff only until 2023.

Item Type:Book Section
Item Status:Live Archive


In his account of the life of William the Conqueror, William of Poitiers relayed some insights into the Bretons and their culture. He claimed they were polygamous, vegetarian and like the Muslims in many of their customs. William also asserted they were fierce warriors who, when not engaged in battle, enjoyed “plunder, brigandage and domestic feuds.”

William of Poitiers’ portrait of Brittany is a classic example of an exotic other. These were people not like those living in the west of France. In fact, Bretons were so foreign as to be compared to Muslims. They were also a brutal, violent people.

Although only one authorial voice, William of Poitiers’ view of the Bretons was one that was widely shared. Indeed, throughout the Middle Ages Brittany was characterized by barbarity and lacking “civilization.” Th e focus of this essay will be to analyze how two medieval clerics, raised and schooled in the Loire Valley, described and understood Brittany and its inhabitants. Baudri of Bourgueil and Robert of Arbrissel both accepted ecclesiastical appointments in Brittany and each expressed an opinion about their new home. While their views were their own, they were influenced by writings like those of William of Poitiers, but also classical writers.

Brittany was located only a short distance from the heart of the Loire valley. Yet to medieval clergy it was a different and distant world.

Keywords:Brittany, medieval Brittany, Robert of Arbrissel, Baudri of Bourgueil
Subjects:V Historical and Philosophical studies > V130 Medieval History
Divisions:College of Arts > Lincoln School of Humanities and Heritage > Lincoln School of Humanities and Heritage (Humanities)
ID Code:52295
Deposited On:21 Nov 2022 16:36

Repository Staff Only: item control page