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  • Écritures de l'histoire (XIVe-XVIe siècle): Actes du colloque du Centre Montaigne: Bordeaux, 19-21 septembre 2002
  • Katherine MacDonald
Danièle Bohler and Catherine Magnien Simonin , eds. Écritures de l'histoire (XIVe–XVIe siècle): Actes du colloque du Centre Montaigne: Bordeaux, 19–21 septembre 2002. Travaux d'Humanisme et Renaissance 456. Geneva: Librairie Droz S. A., 2005. 566 pp. index. illus. bibl. CHF 184. ISBN: 2–600–01011–4.

The present volume, Écritures de l'histoire (XIVe–XVIe siècle) brings together some thirty papers from a conference held at the Bordeaux Centre Montaigne in 2002. The essays, all in French, mainly cover French writers or those in the employ of the Burgundian court. However, a few contributors look beyond the hexagon to address, for instance, the Florentine historian Francesco Guicciardini (Bruno Méniel) and the lesser-known, but entirely fascinating, genealogist and forger from Umbria, Alfonso Ceccarelli (Isabelle Heullant-Donat). Two Englishmen are also represented: the collector and antiquarian Mathew Parker (Isabelle Guyot-Bachy) and the Catholic martyrologist Richard Vergestan (real name Richard Rowlands [Frank Lestringant]). The volume includes contributions from two eminent specialists of French historiography in the sixteenth century: Philippe Desan (Penser l'histoire, 1993) and Claude-Gilbert Dubois (La conception de l'histoire, 1977).

Quite apart from the important works of these two scholars, this admittedly worthy and multifaceted topic has generated more than one conference in recent years, and more than one volume of conference proceedings. At least two other similar volumes are known to this reviewer: Marie-Thérèse Jones-Davies, ed., L'Histoire au temps de la Renaissance (1995) and Marie Viallon-Schoneveld, ed., L'Histoire et les historiens au XVIe siècle: actes du VIIIe colloque du Puy-en-Velay (2001). Indeed, the existing scholarly bibliography in this field amply supports Dubois's liminary claim that "regarder l'éclosion de ce type d'écriture pendant la période considérée ne manque pas d'intéręt" (13). So we might be justified in asking, why another such volume? Is there anything to distinguish this contribution to an already thriving field? Well, for one thing, the decision to expand the period covered to embrace both the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries is a laudable one. Sixteenth-century scholars and medievalists alike have tended to neglect the "époque charnière" of the fifteenth century, a situation which is gradually being redressed by scholars such as Adrian Armstrong and Cynthia Brown (The Shaping of History and Poetry in Late Medieval France, 1985). The present volume provides a convenient reminder of the significant historiographical production of writers like George Chastelain, Philippe de Commynes, Jean Froissart, Jean Lemaire de Belges, and Jean Molinet. At the same time, it introduces lesser-known figures such as the compiler and continuator of Christine de Pizan's Epitre Othea, Jean Miélot, whose use of Boccaccio's Genealogia deorum gentilium shows a conception of history as intimately linked to poetry (Anne Schoysman). In addition to its chronological range, the diversity of forms of history writing studied in this volume is also instructive: chronicles, memoirs, biographies, antiquarian treatises, genealogies, local histories, and martyrologies, as well as classical histories. The editors' division of the papers into three sections ("Aux sources," "Au pupitre," and "Au combat") [End Page 885] represents an attempt at overall coherence. But the rationale behind this presentation is nowhere explained and the contents of the essays themselves do not render it entirely self-evident.

Several contributions are particularly worthy of mention. Ken Keffer exploits medical and equestrian literature to provide a historical context for the accidents which made memorialists of Monluc, La Noue, and Brantôme. Desan considers Le Roy's anthropological approach to history. Richard Cooper presents a highly topical paper on the activities of antiquarians in Bordeaux and Toulouse in the later sixteenth century. Dubois examines Pierre Droict de Gaillard's treatise La méthode qu'on doit tenir en la lecture de l'histoire (1579) as the production of a member of the noblesse de robe engaged in defending the particular values of his class. Rosanna Gorris Camos gives a stimulating analysis...


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