William Wallace - Historiography of Wallace

Historiography of Wallace

Although there are problems with writing a satisfactory biography of many medieval people, the problems with Wallace are greater than usual. Not much is known about him beyond his military campaign of 1297–98, and the last few weeks of his life in 1305. Even in recent years, his birthplace and his father's name have been argued.

To compound this, the legacy of subsequent 'biographical' accounts, sometimes written as propaganda, other times simply as entertainment, has clouded much scholarship until relatively recent. Some accounts have uncritically copied elements from the epic poem, The Acts and Deeds of Sir William Wallace, Knight of Elderslie, written around 1470 by Blind Harry the minstrel. Harry wrote from oral tradition describing events 170 years earlier, and is not in any sense an authoritative descriptor of Wallace's exploits. Much of the poem is clearly at variance with known historical facts and records of the period and is either fabricated using traditional chivalric motifs or 'borrowed' from the exploits of others and attributed to Wallace.

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