Senses of the Past: The Old English Vocabulary of History

Page from Beowulf, now at the British Library

How did the Anglo-Saxons think about history?

Reporting Scotland in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

The initial page of the Peterborough Chronicle, marked secondarily by the librarian of the Laud collection.

The aim of this paper is to explore the changing way in which the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle reports events in northern Britain, beyond the Anglo-Saxon territories, in the hope of gaining a better understanding both of events in that region and, perhaps more interestingly, the way in which the Chronicle was constructed.

The Ghosts of Chroniclers Past: The Transmission and Legacy of the Chroniques of Jean Froissart in the Anchiennes Cronicques d’Engleterre compiled by Jean de Wavrin

Charles Vi of France - British Library  Royal 14 D VI   f. 161

This article investigates the transmission and the transformation of Froissart’s Chroniques into the Wavrin compilation through a close reading of an episode in manuscript context.

The Rewriting of History in Amin Maalouf’s The Crusades Through Arab Eyes

crusades through arab eyes

I argue that while Maalouf brilliantly deconstructs the Western image of the Crusades as a heroic time by documenting the barbarity of the Crusaders without falling into the pitfall of simply inverting the terms of the dichotomy, the agenda driving his rewriting of this historical period leads him to partially repeat what his book is supposed to undo

BOOK REVIEW: Genoa ‘La Superba’: The Rise and Fall of a Merchant Pirate Superpower by Nicholas Walton

Book cover: Genoa ‘La Superba’: The Rise and Fall of a Merchant Pirate Superpower by Nicholas Walton

While most books about Italy have been dedicated to tourist hubs like Milan, Florence, Rome, Sicily and Venice, Genoa with its rich history, rugged landscape, and tenacious residents, has been given only a passing mention.

Pragmatic Literacy and Political Consciousness in Later Medieval England

Manuscript Colloquium 2013 Leiden University - photo by  Turning Over A New Leaf / Flickr

This article examines the profound impact that the concept of pragmatic literacy has had on the research methodologies of medievalists. Particular attention is given to the insight it has afforded historians of political culture who seek to better understand the nature of political consciousness in this period.

Ernst Robert Curtius: A Medievalist’s Contempt for the Middle Ages

Ernst Robert Curtius

I began work on this talk ready to vent against Curtius. I have resisted his hold on my thinking and on that of medievalists generally, but only after benefitting hugely from his great book.

Magna Carta and the English Historical Review: A Review Article

english historical review

As the most venerable of Anglophone historical periodicals, the English Historical Review has carried many new findings on Magna Carta. In what follows, I attempt a survey of this contribution.

Chronicles and Politics in the Reign of Edward II

Edward II - photo by Holly Hayes  / Flickr

Historians have tended to give more weight to sources such as governmental and legal records than to chronicles, not least because so many survive. They open up areas of history impossible to access through chronicles alone, and they also provide a much more precise and detailed political narrative.

Hero or Villain?: Two views on Simon de Montfort, Crusade Leader

Death of Simon de Montfort

There is perhaps no better medieval example of the phase ‘Truth is in the eye of the beholder’ than these two versions of the death of Simon de Montfort, the leader of the crusaders during the Albigensian Crusade.

Foundation Myths in Medieval and Renaissance Italy

Plaque of Regola, the VII rione of Rome. (

The 3 papers featured here looked at the development of the civic identities of Florence, Genoa and Rome through art, architecture and foundation legends.

Conflicting Perspectives: Chivalry in Twelfth-Century Historiography

Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des Manuscrits, Division occidentale, Français 226, fol. 256v, Bataille de Tinchebray (1106)

Historians have found the task of defining medieval chivalry to be an elusive task.

The Changing Story of Cnut and the Waves

Cnut and the Waves

There is famous story about King Cnut and the waves. However, most people know do not know the original version.

A Villain and a Monster – The Literary Portrait of Richard III by Thomas More and William Shakespeare

Richard III by  Wenceslaus Hollar (1607–1677)

The process of vilification of Richard III started at the end of the fifteenth century, when a well-planned policy of Tudor propaganda was set in motion by Henry VII himself, who commissioned a series of historiographical writings, mainly aiming at the solidification of the newly founded dynasty.

What was it like to be a Cow? History and Animal Studies

Medieval Cattle - British Library Oriental 5024   f. 177

This essay outlines where the history of animals is now, and suggests where it and the historiographical issues raised by the inclusion of animals in a study of the past might go in the future.

William Wallace: The Man Behind the Legend

A depiction of Wallace from H E Marshall's 'Scotland's Story', published in 1906. The scene shows a woman informing Wallace that the Scottish nobles have been massacred in a trap set at the Barns of Ayr. The original caption is, "Hold you, hold you, Brave Wallace! the English have hanged all your best men like dogs."

Wallace was a flesh and blood man who had no idea that he would one day become a national hero of Scotland and an international legend; however, in the right time and in the right circumstances, normal becomes exceptional and exceptional becomes legendary.

The Military Legacy of Richard the Lionheart

Statue of Richard the Lionheart - photo by wim hoppenbrouwers / Flickr

Authors look back at the entirety of the reign and reach two common conclusions: 1) he was a neglectful and mostly-absent ruler of England, but 2) he attained spectacular success in war, which was, after all, his primary interest.

Rethinking the Crusades

Gustave Dore crusades battle

Today, the Crusade influence can be seen across the world in novels, movies, sport teams and even restaurants.

Sacerdos et Predicator: Franciscan ‘Experience’ and the Cronica of Salimbene de Adam


The Chronicle of the thirteenth-century Franciscan friar Salimbene de Adam is filled with an abundance of self-referential passages.

Microhistory and the Big Picture

A Poisoned Past

Microhistory draws us in with stories of compelling people, and teaches us more about history along the way. Done well, it can be the best of both worlds.

Writing About Richard III: Admissible Sources and Emotional Responses


What is it about Richard III that provokes an emotional response, when so many other British monarchs are of scant interest to twenty-first century people?

How an Early Medieval Historian Worked: Methodology and Sources in Bede’s Narrative of the Gregorian Mission to Kent

Venerable Bede

This dissertation examines the methods and sources employed by Bede in the construction of his account of the Gregorian mission, thereby providing an insight into how an early medieval historian worked.

Danish Ferocity and Abandoned Monasteries: the Twelfth-century View

Lindisfarne ruins - created by  Thomas Girtin (1775–1802)

This article tries to explain why twelfth-century authors found it so important to invent stories of Viking brutality towards monks and nuns and what ideas and material they used to create their stories.

Satiric Vulgarity in Guibert de Nogent’s Gesta Dei per Francos

Gesta Dei per Francos

Attempts to characterize Guibert de Nogent (1053-1121) generally focus upon his Autobiography, not on his history of the First Crusade.

Scattered voices: Anthonis de Roovere and other reporters of the wedding of Charles the Bold and Margaret of York

Charles the Bold, duke of Burgundy, here around 1460 as Count of Charolais

Both sources are of great value for those who study the Bruges wedding, with the impact it had on its contemporaries, and the way in which our present-day picture of it came about.

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