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'Decline' and 'New Management' in Medieval Historiography during the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries (And Beyond)1 John O. Ward N o one w h o seeks to compare the historiographical output of William of Malmesbury or Otto of Freising with that of Matthew Paris - to pick at random three historians from the period under discussion - could think in terms of the 'decline' of historiography in twelfth- and thirteenth-century Europe. Even if w e leave aside all the other indications of growth in semi-national monastic chronicling in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, Matthew's record is enough to dazzle, in comparison with twelfth-century and earlier efforts. His Chronica This article is a much extended version of a paper delivered initially at a confer 'History, Text, Culture: Medieval and Early Modern Studies', University of Melbourne 4-6 February, 1999, and more elaborately at the second conference on 'The Medieval Chronicle / La Chronique Medievale / Die mittelalterliche Chronik', held at Utrecht / Driebergen, 16-21 July, 1999. Selected papers from thefirstconference have been published as The Medieval Chronicle: Proceedings ofthe First International Conferen on the Medieval Chronicle, Driebergen / Utrecht, 13-16 July, 1996, ed. Erik Kooper (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1999). This volume will be referred to below as 'Kooper'. I should like to take the opportunity here of thanking Professor Kooper and his assistants for arranging so expertly two such productive occasions on which scholars interested in the medieval historiographical impulse could exchange their ideas and air their specialties. 20 John O. Ward Majora - with the 'book of documents' known as the Liber Additamentorum occupy six large Rolls Series volumes, and date from the sixth decade of the thirteenth century. His other historical works - the Historia Anglorum, the Flores Historiarum, his Life of St Edmund of Abingdon (canonised 1244-46), lives of Saints Alban and Amphibalus (in Anglo-Norman verse), St Thomas Becket of Canterbury, of Edward the Confessor (an Anglo-Norman metrical translation of the Latin Life composed by Aelred ofRievaulx), and Stephen Langton (in Latin), his Gesta Abbatum (included in the Liber Additamentorum), his Vitae Offarum (Lives of the two Offas, of Angel and of Mercia), and his celebrated historical artistic efforts - all add up to a picture of a m a n obsessed with the historical record, and in a good position to dwell upon it: his abbey, as has often been pointed out, was but a day's ride 'on the great road north from London and the 2 palace of Westminster' and had stabling for 300 horses! H o w then can one speak of 'decline'? In three ways, perhaps:first,the place that historiography, and monastic historiography in particular, occupied in the prevailing intellectual and cultural atmosphere changed in the later and posttwelfth -century world. Second, during the same time-span history came under what R. W . Southern has called 'new management'. Third, monastic literary interests in general were increasingly compromised, as the twelfth century wore on, by a concern for the legal defence of property and privilege, and by the general shift ofbroad-based intellectual culture to cathedral schools and university studia. Richard Vaughan The Illustrated Chronicles ofMatthew Paris: Observations ofThi Century Life, translated and edited and with an introduction (Cambridge: Sutton Richard Vaughan Matthew Paris (1958, Cambridge: University Press, 1979) p. 11; W.N Bryant, 'Matthew Paris, chronicler of St. Albans', History Today 19:12 (1969) [772-78 p. 776. Matthew's conversations with King Henry III are recorded in Bryant pp. 772-74. For a recent comment on Matthew's working procedures, see Bjorn Weiler, 'Matthew Paris, Richard ofCornwall's candidacy for the German throne, and the Sicilian business', Journa ofMedieval History 26:1 (2000) 71 -92. I have used here in particular the (unpublished) study of Christ Church by John Scott 'Intellectual life in the monastery of Christ Church, Canterbury: 1075-1205 (University of Sydney History IV Thesis, 1972). For historiography down to the twelfth century as primarily 'monastic', see my 'The monastic historiographical impulse c. 1000-1260 A.D.: a re-assessment', delivered at the 1998 Leeds International Medieval Congress and published in Historia: The Concept and Genres in the Middle Ages, ed. Mehtonen Lehtonen pp. 71-100. 'Decline' and 'New Management...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1832-8334
Print ISSN
0313-6221
Pages
pp. 19-75
Launched on MUSE
2013-04-03
Open Access
No
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