'The Native Place of That Great Arthur': Foreignness and Nativity in Sixteenth-Century Defences of Arthur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


After Polydore Vergil published his Anglica Historia in 1534, which expressed doubt about some elements of Arthurian history, he faced severe rebuttal from several English and Welsh writers. Vergil’s words were misrepresented in these counter-attacks, some of which were openly xenophobic: John Bale accused Vergil of ‘polluting our English Chronicles most shamefully with his Romish lies and other Italish beggarys’. Bale’s more subdued contemporaries, including John Leland, John Prise, and Humphrey Llwyd, are inconsistent in their handling of foreign-authored Arthurian texts. Sometimes, like Bale, they frame ‘foreign’ contributions to Arthurian narratives as pollutants to Britain’s ‘native’ histories. They weaponize physical sites such as Glastonbury and Caerleon – immobile, geographically rooted, seemingly permanent, and difficult to forge or palimpsest – as incorruptible counterparts to less-stable textual histories. At other times, foreign-authored texts are deployed as impartial evidence for Arthur’s existence. This slippage occurs across and sometimes even within these texts. This article examines Leland, Prise, and Llwyd’s approaches to native and foreign, physical and textual proofs. What role do concepts of foreignness and nativity play in this evidential framework, and does this differ in the works of Welsh writers? Reading ‘across’ these texts presents a complex, shifting attitude towards foreign representations of Arthur.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)152-72
JournalArthurian Literature
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2020


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