Seminar IV: Annals and Chronicles—Origins and Early Development
One of the most widely produced forms of history in the Middle Ages was the
‘annalistic chronicle’. This is a form of historical writing in which
events are simply listed under the name of the year in which
they took place. Such works usually provide ample chronological orientation,
but they rarely attempt to link events together into an explicit narrative—note
the emphasis. Since history as practiced in the modern academic context puts
a premium on wide perspectives and a desire to explain and verify, most modern
scholars do not regard annalistic chronicles as genuine ‘history’.
But these texts cannot be so easily dismissed. One reason why not is that we
are indebted to the brief records found in these texts for much of our knowledge
of the general narrative of medieval history, even in the case of crucial events
such as the coronation of Charlemagne in 800.
These texts have also acquired
much importance as a symbol of the ‘otherness’ of
the medieval world. They are often cited as evidence in debates about
the ‘medieval mentalité’,
since their format and a-historical character (in the eyes of many modern
observers) seems to provide significant evidence for pre-modern attitudes
to causation and time. This view tends to depend, however, doubtful
assumptions about how and why these texts were compiled, and other interpretations
are possible. In this seminar we will look at a several ‘sub-types’ of
annalistic chronicle which speak to these issues.
Topics for Discussion
- The nature and organisation of annalistic chronicles.
- The ways in which annalistic chronicles are laid out in manuscripts.
- The functions of annalistic chronicles.
- Theories about the origins of annals: the ‘Easter-table’ argument;
the Roman roots of annal-keeping; the Judaeo-Christian roots of medieval annal-keeping.
Manuscripts and Texts for Discussion
- Oxford, Merton College, MS 315
- Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 173
- London, British Library, MSS Cotton
Caligula A.XV, fols. 120r–153v + Egerton 3314, fols. 1r–44v
- Oxford, St John’s College, MS
17 + London, British Library, MS Cotton Nero C. VII, fols. 80r–84v
Some Other Examples
- Bede’s Greater Chronicle, trs. F. Wallis in Bede, The
Reckoning of Time, Translated Texts for Historians 29 (Liverpool, 1999),
pp. 157–237. PN.DM.B35. Bede’s Chronica maiora = Chapter 66 of his De temporum
- Bertolini, O. (ed.), ‘Gli “Annales Beneventani”,’ Bullettino
dell’ Istituto Storico Italiano per il Medio Evo, 42 (1923), 100–59.
- Charles-Edwards, T. M. O. (trs), The Chronicle of Ireland,
Translated Texts for Historians 44, 2 vols. (Liverpool, 2006). MYBB.
- Isidore of Seville, Chronica,
ed. Theodore Mommsen, MGH Auctores antiquissimi, xi (Berlin, 1894),
pp. 424–81; ed. J. Martin, Corpus Christianorum Series Latina, vol.
112 (Turnhout, 2003). This chronicle was published in two editions, one ending
with the year 615/16, the other with 626. Isidore also incorporated an abbreviated
edition of the 626 version in his Etymologiae, V.xxxix.1–42, trs. S.
A. Barney, J. A. Beach, O. Berghof and W. J. Lewis, The Etymologies of Isidore
of Seville (Cambridge, 2005), pp. 130–3. XJR.I8.
- Johnstone, H. (ed. and trs.), Annals of Ghent,
Nelson’s Medieval Texts (London, 1951). MPVF.Q.
- Royal Frankish Annals, trs. B. W. Scholz with B.
Rogers, Carolingian Chronicles: Royal Frankish Annals and Nithard’s Histories (Ann
Arbor, MI, 1970), pp. 37–125. MSD.
- Flodoard of Reims, The Annals of Flodoard of Reims, 919-966, trs. S. Fanning and B. S. Bachrach,
Readings in Medieval Civilizations and Cultures 9 (Peterborough, Ontario, 2004).
- Mac Airt, S., and G. Mac Niocaill (ed.), Annals of Ulster (to A.D. 1131), pt. 1, Text and Translation,
Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (Dublin, 1983). Not held.
- MacLean, S. (trs.), History and Politics in Late Carolingian and Ottonian Europe: The Chronicle of Regino of Prüm and Adalbert of Magdeburg, Manchester Medieval Sources (Manchester, 2009). Translates an important universal chronicle composed in about 908 extended in the mid 960s.
- Nelson, J. L. (trs.), Annales Bertiniani: The Annals of St-Bertin, Manchester Medieval Sources: Ninth-Century
Histories 1 (Manchester, 1991). Not held.
- Reuter, T. (trs.), Annales Fuldenses: The Annals of Fulda, Manchester Medieval Sources: Ninth-Century
Histories 2 (Manchester, 1992). Not held.
- Robinson, I. S. (trs.), Eleventh-Century Germany: The Swabian Chronicles, Manchester Medieval Sources (Manchester, 2008). A translation of the final 54 years of the Chronicle of Herman the Lame (1039–56) and of the continuations by Berthold of Reichenau (1076–79), and Bernold of Constance (1080–1100). MHBF.
- Allen, M. I., ‘The Chronicle of Claudius of Turin’,
in A. C. Murray (ed.), After Rome’s Fall: Narrators and Sources of Early Medieval
History: Essays Presented to Walter Goffart (Toronto, 1998), pp. 289–319.
Claudius was an early ninth-century thinker with similar concerns to Bede. Useful
for the purposes of comparison. MBR7.
- Bassett, P. M., ‘The Use of History in the Chronicon of
Isidore of Seville’, History and Theory, 15 (1976), 278–92.
Journals L6. Also available online at JSTOR and at Academic Search Premier.
- Bately, J. M., The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: Texts and Textual Relationships, Reading Medieval Studies:
Monograph 3 (Reading, 1991).
- Bredehoft, T. A., Textual Histories: Readings in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (Toronto, 2001).
- Brett, M., ‘The Annals of Bermondsey, Southwark and Merton’, in D. Abulafia, M. Franklin and M.
Rubin (eds), Church and City, 1000–1500: Essays in Honour of Christopher Brooke (Cambridge,
1992), pp. 279–310.
- Burgess, R. W., Studies in Eusebian and post-Eusebian Chronography (Stuttgart, 1999).
- Burgess, R. W., The Chronicle of Hydatius (Oxford, 1993).
- Cassiodorus, Institutions of Divine and Secular Learning; On the Soul,
trs. J. W. Halporn, Translated Texts for Historians 42 (Liverpool, 2004).
i.17 (pp. 149–51), Cassiodorus explores the difference between ‘histories’ and ‘chronicles’.
- Croke, B., ‘The Origins of the Christian World Chronicle’,
in B. Croke and A. M. Emmet (ed.), History and Historians in Late Antiquity (Sydney, 1983), pp. 116–31. XDS.
- Croke, B., Count Marcellinus and his Chronicle (Oxford, 2001).
- Dale, S., A. W. Lewin, and D. J. Osheim (eds), Chronicling History: Chroniclers
and Historians in Medieval and Renaissance Italy (University Park, PA,
2008). MFP.I. Includes several essays about civic chronicles, an
important sub-category among annalistic texts: E. Coleman, ‘Lombard City Annals and the Social and Cultural History of Northern Italy’ (pp. 1–27);
J. Dotson, ‘The Genoese Civic Annals: Caffaro and His Continuators’ (pp.
55–85); A. W. Lewin, ‘Salimbene de Adam and the Franciscan Chronicle’ (pp.
87–112); P. Clarke, ‘The Villani Chronicles’ (pp. 113–43);
D. J. Osheim, ‘Chronicles and Civic Life in Giovanni Sercambi’s
Lucca’ (pp. 145–69); S. Dale, ‘Fourteenth-Century Lombard
Chronicles’ (pp. 171–95); J. Melville-Jones, ‘Venetian
History and Patrician Chroniclers’ (pp. 197–221).
- de Hartmann, C. C., ‘The Textual Transmission of the Mozarabic Chronicle of 754’, Early Medieval Europe, 8 (2003), 13–29. Wiley Interscience.
- Deliyannis, D. M. (ed.), Historiography in the Middle
Ages (Leiden, 2002). L43.B. A general survey by a team of authors, which
includes one article which is particularly relevant to the present session:
that is, M. I. Allen, ‘Universal History 300–1000: Origins and Western Developments’ (pp.
17–42). This volume is, however, rather misleading in so far as it groups
medieval histories according a series of categories which have little basis
in the thinking and practices of the people who wrote them.
- Deliyannis, D. M., ‘Year-Dates in the Early Middle Ages’,
in C. Humphrey and W. M. Ormrod (eds), Time in the Medieval World (Rochester,
NY, 2001), pp. 5–22. LFC.
- Dumville, D. N., ‘What is a Chronicle?’, in E. Kooper
(ed.), The Medieval Chronicle II: Proceedings of the Second International
Conference on the Medieval Chronicle Drieberger/Utrecht, 16–21 July 1999,
Costerus n.s. 144 (Amsterdam, 2002), pp. 1–27. PAH can supply copies.
- Dunphy, G. R., et al. (eds), Encyclopaedia of the Medieval Chronicle, 2 vols. (Leiden, 2010). See esp. the general articles on subjects such as annals, chronicles, world chronicles, layout, and so on.
- Feeney, D., Caesar’s Calendar: Ancient Time and the Beginnings of History (Berkeley, CA, 2007).
- Foot, S., ‘Finding the Meaning of the Form: Narrative
in Annals and Chronicles’, in N. Partner (ed.), Writing Medieval History (London,
2005), pp. 88–108. MB7.
- Hay, D., Annalists and Historians: Western Historiography
from the Eighth to the Eighteenth Centuries (London, 1977). A useful,
but dated introduction. L43.
- Jones, C. W., Saints’ Lives and Chronicles in Early
England (Ithaca, NY, 1947). Old but still fundamental.
- Kleist, A. J., ‘The Influence of Bede’s De temporum
ratione on Ælfric’s Understanding of Time’, in G. Jaritz
and G. Moreno-Riano (eds), Time and Eternity: The Medieval Discourse (Turnhout,
2003), pp. 81–97. AHG.
- Landes, R., ‘Lest the Millennium Be Fulfilled: Apocalyptic
Expectations and the Pattern of Western Chronography, 100–800 C.E.’,
in W. Verbeke, C. Verhelst and A. Welkenhuysen (eds), The Use and Abuse of Eschatology in
the Middle Ages, Medievalia Lovaniensia I/Studia XV (Louvain, 1988),
pp. 137–209. Available online from the course website.
- Markus, R. A., ‘Chronicle and Theology: Prosper of Aquitaine’,
in C. Holdsworth and T. P. Wiseman (ed.), The Inheritance of Historiography
350–900, Exeter Studies in History 12 (Exeter, 1986), pp. 31–43. L43.
- McKitterick, R., ‘Political ideology in Carolingian Historiography’, in M. Innes and Y. Hen (eds), The Uses of the Past in the Early Middle Ages (Cambridge, 2000), pp. 162–74. Available online at MyLibrary.
- McKitterick, R., History and Memory in the Carolingian World (Cambridge, 2004). MSD.
- McKitterick, R., Perceptions of the Past in the Early Middle Ages (Notre Dame, IN, 2006). MC.B.
- Miller, M., ‘The Chronological Structure of the Sixth Age in the Rawlinson Fragment of the “Irish World Chronicle”‘, Celtica,
22 (1991), 79–83.
- Morris, J., ‘The Chronicle of Eusebius: Irish Fragments’, Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies,
University of London, 19 (1972), 80–93: shows that there existed, in
the seventh and eighth centuries, both in Ireland and in Britain, a full Latin
translation of Eusebius’ Chronicon different from any now extant.
- Mosshammer, A. A., The Chronicle of Eusebius and Greek Chronographic Tradition (Lewisburg, PA, 1979).
- Mosshammer, A. A., The Easter Computus and the Origins of the Christian Era (Oxford, 2008).
- Muhlberger, S., The Fifth-Century Chronicles: Prosper, Hydatius and the Gallic Chronicler of 452 (Leeds, 1990). LVS.I.
- Nothaft, C. P. E., Dating the Passion: The Life of Jesus and the Emergence of Scientific Chronology (200–1600) (Leiden, 2012).
- Palmer, J., ‘Calculating Time and the End of Time in the Carolingian World, c.740–820’, English Historical Review, 126 (2011), 1307–31. Journals L6. Argues, in opposition to Landes, that ‘chronological systems such as AD-dating were adapted and discussed—at length—for their relevance to paschal reckonings, not apocalypticism’.
- Poole, R. L. Chronicles and Annals. A Brief Outline of their Origin and Growth (Oxford, 1926). A pioneering essay whose
picture of how chronicles evolved out of annals has been enormously influential. Not held, alas.
- Story, J., ‘The Frankish Annals
of Lindisfarne and Kent’, Anglo-Saxon England, 34 (2005), 59–109. MVC. Cambridge Journals Online.
- Verbist, P., Duelling with the Past: Medieval Authors and the Problem of the Christian Era (c.990–1135), Studies in the Early Middle Ages 21 (Turnhout, 2009). MBO.