Lying British Historians

Well, now, who woulda thunk? I was reading the lovely Lingard today, on the early days of Britain, up to the early fourth century, and after observing that Christianity had already spread through the Island to a significant degree, he said the following:

It might have been expected that the British writers would have preserved the memory of an event so important in their eyes as the conversion of their fathers. But their traditions have been so embellished or disfigured by fiction, that without collateral evidence, it is hardly possible to distinguish in them what is real from what is imaginary.

Lingard says that the British Church was so well established by the end of the third century that it is written of by contemporaries as equal with the Churches in Gaul and Spain. We know also that at the Council of Arles in 314, the British Bishops, Elborius of York and Restitutus of London were present.


He relates a pleasing episode too, about Caesar Constantius, during the time of the Augustii, Maximian and Diocletian. This is not specific to Britain, but it’s of interest. Constantius was the Caesar (ie the heir to the Western half of the Empire) at the time that Diocletian issued a severe persecution of Christians. Refusal to worship the pagan gods was made punishable by death. Constantius was not in favour of this, however he informed the Christian officers of his houshold that they must determine to either

resign their employments, or to abjure the worship of Christ. If some among them preferred their interest to their religion, they received the reward which their perfidy deserved – as Caesar [Constantius] dismissed him from their service, observing that he would never trust the fidelity of men who had proven themselves traitors to their God.


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4 Responses to Lying British Historians

  1. Lawrence Bond says:

    Hi. It should always be remembered that the English gentleman does not lie; he may be at times be mistaken… How has the story of the conversion to Christianity in Britain been “disfigured”, Louiseyvette?

    PS: how have you found WordPress to be as a platform; and do the blog entries stay open for comment indefinitely?

    The “love child” πŸ™‚

  2. louiseyvette says:

    Hi “Love Child” πŸ™‚
    I’ll answer in reverse order – I really like WordPress and for about $50/year you can go Ad-free. And yes, my blog entries can be commented upon indefinitely.

    “How has the story of the conversion to Christianity in Britain been β€œdisfigured”?”
    I’m not completely sure – I would have to read more Lingard to find out, I think, but Belloc says (and Lingard backs him up) that Christianity was already a significant influence on the island from the Roman times, even before St Augustine landed in Kent in the 6th C. So there’s that. Also Belloc says in “Europe and the Faith” that in an effort to downplay any real connection with the Catholic Church British historians make a great deal of the supposed rupture between the island and the Roman Empire, and also make a bigger deal of the Viking raids on the coast than is warranted. Not only that, but even today, people make much of supposed liturgical differences (they were minimal according to the Catholic Encyclopedia) between the Catholic parishes in England, and those in Europe during the middle ages. Anything to deny that England was ever Catholic. That’s the main aim of the “mistaken” πŸ™‚ British historians and their followers.

    I know you love your country and the gentlemen there can do no wrong. I won’t beat you over the head with this. πŸ™‚

  3. Lawrence Bond says:

    Hello. WordPress sounds good, esp the always open threads — thank you.

    At school we were taught about the early church (St Paul, the catacombs…) and about how our own ancestors converted to Christianity. The historians weren’t mentioned of course, and it’s true how Catholic it was wasn’t spoken of — but considering it now it was at least implied that all Britain was Catholic before the events that I always avoid referring to as much as possible in our chats (said playfully). The Roman pullout and the Vikings did have big star roles in the story, that’s very true.

    Thank you for your great reply.

  4. louiseyvette says:

    You’re welcome, Lawrence. I do what I can. πŸ™‚

    Perhaps regarding those events, we could refer them as The Events Which Must Not Be Named.


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