Seminar I: Introduction
This session will begin with an outline of the course and of the various types
of textual source for the study of medieval society. The seminar will go on to
examine the crucial role which the sub-disciplines of palaeography (the study
of writing and scripts) and codicology (the study of books and their construction)
play in medieval history. The script, the book’s construction and its afterlife
(its history and travels with and from one owner to another) can all hold vital
evidence for understanding the purpose, uses and agency of the texts which they
contain. Many manuscripts are the products of complex processes of manufacture,
involving several scribes and various ‘campaigns’ of activity,
sometimes stretching across decades and even centuries. Indeed, it is a common
experience to find that manuscripts are ‘unfinished’, especially
when it comes to their illuminated initials and other elements of the artistic
scheme. It is important to understand how these details combine to provide useful
Topics for Discussion (or rather, to be discussed throughout the course)
- The range and variety of textual materials for pursuit of medieval history.
- The problem of their relationship to their Greco-Roman ancestors.
- The importance of books and documents as historical and cultural artefacts
as opposed to their role as containers and conveyers of texts.
- The characteristics peculiar to documents transmitted in manuscripts, and
the problems which they present for the historian of the Middle Ages. What
should the historian watch out for when confronted with a manuscript?
- The ways in which medieval texts are transformed when they are edited by
modern scholars and converted from their manuscript form(s) into the forms
in which they are to be found in printed books. To what extent can
historians trust the printed versions of medieval texts? How do modern ‘critical’ editions
try to give their readers a full impression of the manuscript evidence?
Useful Preliminary Reading
- Backhouse, J., The Illuminated Manuscript (Oxford, 1979). 7VSR. Ask at enquiries.
- Bischoff, B., Latin Palaeography: Antiquity and the
Middle Ages, trs. D. Ó Cróinin and D. Ganz (Cambridge, 1990). Worth purchasing. For Bischoff's guide to some of the most commonly used abbreviations, see
- Brown, M. P., A Guide to Western Historical Scripts from Antiquity to 1600 (London, 1991). VSE.
- Clanchy, M. T., From Memory to Written Record: England, 1066–1307 (1st edn, Oxford, 1979; 2nd edn, Oxford, 1993; 3rd edn, Oxford, 2013), esp. pt 1, ‘The Making of Records’. The library has the 2nd edn at MVE.I.
- Clemens, R., and T. Graham, Introduction to Manuscript Studies (Ithaca, NY, 2007). VSR.B+
- Glenn, J. (ed.), The Middle Ages in Texts and Texture: Reflections on Medieval Sources (Toronto, 2011). MB.
- Grafton, A., What Was History? The Art of History in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge, 2007). MC.I. For the purpose of discovering what is distinctive about medieval historical writing, it is useful to know about what is supposed to have come later, during the Renaissance.
- Pearson, D., Books as History: The Importance of Books Beyond their Texts (London,
2008). ZC3. A stirring defence of the need to preserve libraries as historical monuments, this study is
an excellent introduction to the importance of books as physical artefacts, even though it focuses on their history since the invention of printing in the fifteenth century. The illustrations are particularly fine: note esp. pp. 21–25.
- Roger, R., ‘Historiography’, in F. A. C. Mantello and A. G. Rigg (eds), Medieval Latin: An Introduction and Bibliographical Guide (Washington, DC, 1996), pp. 639–49. XHM. One of many excellent essays in this useful handbook.
- Rosenthal, J. T. (ed.), Understanding Medieval Primary Sources: Using Historical Sources to Discover Medieval Europe, Routledge Guides to Using Historical Sources (London, 2012). MB.
- Southern, R. W., ‘Aspects of the European Tradition of
Historical Writing’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society,
5th ser., 20 (1970), 173–96; 21 (1971), 159–79; 22 (1972), 159–80; 23 (1973),
243–63; now reprinted in idem, History and Historians: Selected
Papers, ed. R. J. Bartlett (Oxford, 2004), pp. 11–83.
Some Helpful Guides to the Classical Background
- Blockley, R. C., The Fragmentary
Classicising Historians of the Later Roman Empire: Eunapius, Olympiorodus,
Priscus and Malchus, 2 vols., ARCA Classical and Medieval Texts, Papers
and Monographs, 6 and 10 (Liverpool, 1981–3). Vol.2 contains text,
translation and historiographical notes. XFHC.
- Bowersock, G. W., P. R. L. Brown and O. Grabar (eds), Late Antiquity: A Guide to the Postclassical World (Cambridge, MA, 1999). Has a few useful essays, e.g. A. Cameron, ‘Remaking the Past’ (pp. 1–20).
- Breisach, E., Historiography: Ancient, Medieval and
Modern (Chicago, 1983).A good general survey
of different species of historical writing.
- Burrow, J. W., A History of Histories: Epics, Chronicles, Romances and Inquiries from Herodotus and Thucydides to the Twentieth Century (Harmondsworth, 2009). Stands a long way back from the evidence, but a useful point of entry.
- Grafton, A., G. W. Most, and S. (eds), The Classical Tradition (Cambridge, MA, 2010). This encyclopaedia is full of useful essays, even though many vault the Middle Ages as though the classical tradition ceased to have any influence for the thousand years between Antiquity and the Renaissance!
- Kraus, C. S., and A. J. Woodman, Latin Historians,
Greece and Rome New Surveys in the Classics 27 (Oxford, 1997). XIH. An excellent
brief introduction to the major Roman historians.
- Marincola, J. (ed.), A Companion to Greek and Roman Historiography, Blackwell Companions to the Ancient World (Oxford, 2007).
- Marincola, J., Authority and Tradition in Ancient Historiography (Cambridge, 2003). ACLS Humanities E-Book.
- Marincola, J., Greek Historians, Greece and Rome
New Surveys in the Classics 31 (Oxford, 2001). XIH.
- Mehl, A., Roman Historiography, Blackwell Introductions
to the Classical World (Oxford, 2007). On order.
- Potter, D. S., Literary Texts and the Roman Historian (London, 1999).
- Samuel, A. E., Greek and Roman Chronology: Calendars
and Years in Classical Antiquity, Handbuch der Altertumswissenschaft
I.17 (Munich, 1972). XD.
- Wallace-Hadrill, A., Suetonius: The Scholar and his Caesars (London,
- Wiseman, T. P., ‘Introduction: Classical Historiography’,
in C. Holdsworth and T. P. Wiseman (ed.), The Inheritance of Historiography
350-900, Exeter Studies in History 12 (Exeter,
1986), pp. 1–6. L43.
- Wiseman, T. P., Clio’s Cosmetics: Three Studies in
Greco-Roman Literature (Leicester, 1979). XDK. Pages 3–53 are fundamental
for anyone interested in rhetorical historiography.
- Woodman, A. J., Rhetoric in Classical Historiography:
Four Studies (London, 1988). XDS.
- Woods, D., ‘Late Antique Historiography: A Brief History of Time’,
in P. Rousseau (ed.), A Companion to Late Antiquity, Blackwell
Companions to the Ancient World (Oxford, 2007), pp. 357–71. LVL.