The Medieval Review 11.01.07

Kooper, Erik. The Medieval Chronicle IV. The Medieval Chronicle, 6. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2009. Pp. x, 260. . 70.00 ISBN 978-90-420-2674-2.

Reviewed by:

Márta Font
University of Pécs, Hungary
marthafont@mail.datanet.hu

The series The Medieval Chronicle is published as a result of the conferences organized by Medieval Chronicle Society (MCS), which was founded by the participants of the first medieval chronicle conference. The initiator of the series of conferences (Utrecht 1996, 1999, 2002; Reading 2005; Belfast 2008) and of the publishing is Professor Erik Kooper who led the MCS up to 2008. He is also the editor of the volumes I-VI. The editorial principles of the journal are to follow the new results in the major themes in research of medieval chronicles: e.g., the chronicle as history and literature; the function and form of medieval chronicles, and how the past is reconstructed in chronicles. The papers of the sixth volume were originally read at the last two conferences. This volume consists of fourteen units and begins with the papers of the plenary speakers: Sophia Menache, Roger Scott and Alan Deyermond.

The volume demonstrates much variety. The contents of the papers illuminate many general questions of chronicle-writing such as written and oral testimonies (Sophia Menache), the origin of the Latin chronicle tradition (R. W. Burgess and Michael Kulikowski), and the ideology of chroniclers (Deyermond). The papers embrace the geographical borders of medieval chronicle-writing from Britain (Dauvit Broun) and France (Valentina Mazzei, Katariina Närä), Byzantium (Roger Scott) and Armenia (Tara L. Andrews), Portugal (Teresa Amado) and Spain (Alan Deyermond, Pedro Chambel) to Poland (Rychard Grzesik) and the Baltic area (Andris Šnē). Varying thematically, the main questions of research are combined with the concrete material of chronicle-texts. Sophia Menache shows the connections between the written and oral testimonies through the late medieval chronicles of Matthew Paris and Giovanni Villani. Her examples from the mentioned chronicles differ from the chronicler of the early medieval era and do not justify the kind of categorization suggested by Elisabeth van Houts (16-17).[1] Roger Scott draws attention to different aspects of Byzantine chronicles: e.g., their production and reliance on previous chronicles, their use as propaganda. Scott points out the difficulties with terminology. In Byzantium there were three genres formulated for recording the past: history, ecclesial history and chronicle. The last one has two Greek words chronographia and chronikon.(36) Scott analyses the Byzantine chronicles from different periods, e.g. Procopius, Malalas, Zonaras, Skylitzes, Theopistos and Manuel Malaxas. Also a general problem is mentioned by Burgess and Kulikowski. The two authors argue for the chronicle as one of the oldest historical genres which, coming from the Near East through the combination with the Greek and Latin traditions and apologetic chronographs, became a model for all medieval development of this genre.

Chronicle-writing of the Mediterranean World is represented in four papers. The article of Deyermond begins with the most influential work of official Spanish historiography Estoria de Espaňa and follows the changes of tradition in the later texts of fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The changes were used for dynastical interests. Also the situation in Spain of fourteenth century is expressed in Historia Troyana, widely known in the Iberian Peninsula, but contrary to dynastical chronicles here the ideal models of chivalric society stands out. The relationship between the past and the present in the work of a chronicler is analysed through three fifteenth-century Portuguese chronicles by Teresa Amado. There is clear evidence for each author: the chroniclers have different kinds of writing about the past and their present, and only when writing about the past could they have more critical distance. Francesca Braida points out the role of the memory also in the cases when the chronicler is the eyewitness. A chronicler's position depends on his relationship to the representatives of power. In the analysis of the role of the memory one should use the conclusions of Johannes Fried.[2] The examples of the chronicle-writing developed at the borderline of the Christian World are represented in the papers written by Tara Andrews and Nicholas Coureas. Andrews analyses the Chronicle of Matthew of Edesse who described the history of Armenia alongside the military expansion of Byzantium and the Muslim retreat in the Near East. The Chronicle of George Boustronios from the turn of the sixteenth century represents a transitional situation: on the one hand in terms of the language (the chronicle was written in Cypriot Greek with a lot of phrases from both French and Italian) and on the other hand in terms of the style (from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance).

Two articles are devoted to a part of Froissart's Chronicle. Valentina Mazzei analyses the first book of the Chronicle through a unique Parisian manuscript from the early fifteenth century. The large text about the siege of Purnon in October 1369 is compared with the miniature about the same event. The author came to the conclusion that "the incident of siege of Purnon becomes a cautionary tale worthily of being pondered and remembered". (225) Katariina Närä's paper analyses gender in her character study of three duchesses in the fourth book of Froissart's Chronicle: Margarite of Flanders (Burgundy), Valentina Visconti (Orléans) and Jeanne of Boulogne (Berry). She concludes that the last mentioned duchesse mirrors the most memorable description of a "good queen" in the Chronicle.

The article of Dauvit Broun is dedicated to monastic chronicle-writing. The discussed Chronicle of Melrose is mentioned as a year-by-year chronicle which is close to annalistic structure. According to Broun's position in this case the year-by-year chronicle is more like a product of the annalistic style, because it is a vital source of information about what happened. I would like to point out that it was typical also for chronicle-writing in East Central Europe to have annalistic works with lots of records that go beyond the boundary of a monastery.[3] Ryszard Grzesik tries to reconstruct the events the year of 1093, the campaign of Hungarian King László (Ladislaus) the Saint (I) against Cracow. The author used not only Hungarian sources but also the different Polish chronicles. He concludes that the besieged castle was not Cracow but Wrocław. Grzesik criticizes the English translation of Polish Chronicles, and it is necessary to agree with them.

This volume, like the five before, fulfils the aims mentioned on the dust-cover: "The yearbook the MC aims to provide a representative survey of the on-going research in the field of chronicles studies, illustrated by examples from specific chronicles from a wide variety of countries, periods and cultural backgrounds."

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Notes:

1. Elisabeth M. C. Van Houts, "Genre Aspects of the Use of Oral Information in Medieval Historiography" in Gattungen mittelalterlicher Schriftlichkeit, eds. Barbara Frank, Thomas Haye and Dories Tophinke (Tübingen, 1998), 297-311.

2. Johannes Fried, Der Schleier der Erinnerung. Grundzüge einer historischen Memorik (München, 2004).

3. Márta Font, Im Spannungsfeld der christlichen Großmächte. Mittel- und Osteuropa im 10.-12. Jahrhundert (Herne, 2008), 28-37.