Itinerary of William of Malmesbury: a study of a Benedictine Monk’s mobility in the Early Twelfth Century
As one of the most famous English monastic historians in the early twelfth century, William of Malmesbury is believed to have travelled widely in order to collect information and materials for his writings. Despite research focusing on his travels and works, however, surprisingly little attention has been paid to investigating the details of his itinerary and the influence of his mobility. This thesis reconstructs William’s itinerary and demonstrates how mobile he was as a Benedictine monk in the early twelfth century. It shows that although monks were usually supposed to be bound to the cloister throughout their life, there did not seem to exist an insurmountable obstacle in practice between travel and monastic rules. William’s case also suggests the importance of mobility as the basis for the circulation of knowledge, which laid the vital foundation for the form of scholarly connections and the flourishing of a group of monastic historians in the Anglo-Norman world in the early twelfth century. The thesis is divided into five chapters. The first chapter determines a chronology of William’s life and works. This forms the foundation of the second chapter, which uses the information in his different works and versions to find detailed evidence for his travels and to give them probable dates. The third chapter reconsiders the previous results and presents the general patterns of his itinerary. The fourth chapter analyses William’s mobility and presents the special and common factors for his travels, which suggests that more ordinary monks were able to follow his steps. Finally, the fifth chapter discusses the circulation of knowledge resulting from his travels. William’s mobility helped him to make connections with both secular and ecclesiastical people, and knowledge was easy to circulate through these personal networks. This detailed exploration of William’s itinerary and the analysis of his mobility not only raises new thoughts on his life and works, but also sheds new light on monastic culture in general in the Middle Ages. William’s case shows vividly a more connected Benedictine world in the early twelfth century than has previously been thought.