My research project is to create a critical edition of a work by the first known British author, Pelagius, famous for his defence of human free will; in his Letter to Demetrias he made a comprehensive case for human free will. Pelagius was excommunicated in 418 AD because of his statements that human nature was inherently good and that human free will was a necessary component in God’s justice. Pelagius’ Letter to Demetrias occupies a special position in his surviving canon because it can be securely attributed to him, and also because it presents a summation of his thought written at a crucial time in his career, when he was aware that he was under attack for maintaining that the principle of free will was integral to the Christian message of salvation. No critical edition, based on a wide comparison of manuscript copies, has ever been made of this Latin text; scholars have had to use a text that was created from just a few manuscripts, has no critical apparatus, and thus has no real authority. As a result scholars have been unable to draw from the letter definitive conclusions about Pelagius’ thought or style. The large number of surviving copies testifies to the influence of Letter to Demetrias throughout the Middle Ages. A critical edition will present the data on the number of surviving witnesses to this text. I will also seek to ascertain whether or not Pelagius was read more widely in Britain than elsewhere in Europe.
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