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Hearing and seeing, remembering and writing: ‘From Memory to Written Record’ across the Norman conquest
A Colloquium to mark the publication of the 3rd edition of ‘From Memory to Written Record’, by Michael Clanchy’, Weston Room, Maughan Library, Chancery Lane, London WC2A 1LR, Tuesday 14 May (2013)
I would like to first thank Julia Crick for offering me the opportunity to say a few words here today. I want to start with a word about the reach of From Memory to Written Record. Yes, I searched in JSTOR for those citing it. There, I had 548 hits other than reviews. Other speakers will cover the book’s extraordinary reach in medieval and historical studies far from England. But I do think it remarkable that this book has been useful far outside the constellation of disciplines that make up Medieval Studies: For instance: Shaping the mind in prehistoric times, From Memory to Written Record is there. The bureaucracy in modern Pakistan, From Memory to Written Record is there. The formation of colonial Inca archives, From Memory to Written Record is there. Copyright cases; and social computing (friending the past!), From Memory to Written Record is there.
And its impact on English historiography has been grand; it was in 1979 the first broad study of the phenomenon of literacy in medieval England. As such, it is cited by the majority of works covering the period from 1066 to the fourteenth century. I won’t be talking about any of these things, because they are already well-known by all of you. What I want to talk about instead is what is new, what has been changed. In this, I mean the first chapter, still entitled ‘Memories and Myths of the Norman Conquest’, which has been completely rewritten and is, I think, the chief justification for the new edition.