Postdoctoral research: Dr Colleen Curran

Marie Skłodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellow (2023-2025)

Breton Palaeography (BretPal)

Previously seen as a ‘Celtic backwater’ during the expansion of the Carolingian empire, early medieval Brittany flourished as a hybrid region, blending cultural and intellectual traditions from Ireland, Britain, and Carolingian Europe. Annexed into the Carolingian empire in c. 792, early medieval Brittany continued to seek independence throughout the ninth century, ultimately establishing itself as an independent region in c. 840, while maintaining important connections with Britain and Ireland. Brittany was, thus, a thoroughfare for ideas and cross- cultural exchanges between the ‘Insular’ world (i.e., Britain and Ireland) and Carolingian Europe. These cultural exchanges are most visible in the surviving written evidence attributed to Brittany, which remains largely understudied. Most manuscripts attributed to this region display a hybrid script, which has been labelled Breton Caroline minuscule but has not yet been systematically defined. This script reflects the region’s cultural hybridity, since it displays characteristics of both the Insular script system and Caroline minuscule, the supranational script developed in late-eighth century Francia and adopted beyond the Carolingian empire. A focused study of Breton Caroline Minuscule will define what this script is, initiate a corpus of manuscripts written in this script, and advance our understanding of what can be identified as ‘Breton’. This will yield a much deeper understanding of the cultural expressions of identity within the political and cultural landscape of early medieval western Europe. 

The Breton Palaeography project (BretPal) will provide the first palaeographic study of the early medieval manuscripts attributed to Brittany (c. 780‒1100). With its cross-cultural, interdisciplinary approachBretPal is a unique project designed to address the questions of what is BCM, who wrote it, and where? The answers to these questions will determine future identification of Breton manuscripts and resituate early medieval Brittany within the wider scribal and intellectual traditions of early medieval western Europe, upon which Brittany drew and to which it greatly contributed. 

Mentor: Dr Jacopo Bisagni

Research areas: The Latin traditionDigital Humanities