The Middle Ages in Australia: Colonialism, Nationalism, and the Antiquarian Imagination

Louise D'Arcens


Although the Australian colonies were founded in the wake of the Age of Enlightenment, they were also home to a thriving culture of medievalism. In literature, theatre, architecture, and art, audiences saw the Middle Ages made over in the image of colonial Australia, and colonial Australia made over the image of the Middle Ages. Through some key examples from the nineteenth century, this essay examines the complex historical and ideological forces that produced, and are reflected in, these medievalist texts and argues that revisiting the Middle Ages gave colonial Australians a unique aesthetic language for discussing their own present and future as a 'new' society.