Genre Into Artifact: the Decline of the English Chronicle In the Sixteenth Century
D. R. Woolf (Dalhousie University)
Sixteenth Century Journal, Vol. 19, No. 3 (Autumn, 1988), 321-354.
Explanations of the changes in historical writing in sixteenth-century England generally focus on the rise of humanist-inspired genres such as the “politic” history and the antiquarian treatise without actually explaining the decline and virtual disappearance of the chronicle, until the late sixteenth century the standard form of historical writing. This decline was occasioned not primarily by humanism but by social and technological change, in particular by the impact of print, by a growing cultural stratification among the readers of history, and by inflation. Quantitative evidence derived from book prices and publication trends further illus- trates the course of the chronicle’s decline from a living genre of historical writing into a historical artifact.
I ha’ beene here ever since seven a clock i’ the morning to get matter for one page, and I thinke I have it compleate; for I have both noted the number and the capacity of the degrees here; and told twice over how many candles there are i’ th’ roome lighted, which I will set you downe to a snuffe precisely, because I love to give light to posteritie in the truth of things.