“Flanders was empty and uncultivated and heavily wooded”: Historiography as Urban Resource in the Twelfth Century
By Jeff Rider
Human and Social Studies, Vo.6:2 (2017)
Abstract: The stories that the inhabitants of a milieu tell themselves and others about that milieu are an important part of the immaterial, human, symbolic resources available to them to help them grasp, articulate and inflect their milieu’s historical development and thus shape its future. The conglomerate of stories that the inhabitants of a milieu tell themselves and others about that milieu, the milieu’s storyworld, is unique to that milieu and help make that milieu unique. A distinct storyworld is part of what makes one milieu different from other milieux, is one of the matrices that orient and limit a milieu’s future development, part of what gives it its sens and leads it to develop in certain ways and not others. This is how the storyworld of a milieu, reflected in its historiography, is a resource for the development of that milieu.
Introduction: Writing some time not too long before 1120, Lambert of Saint-Omer begins his Genelogia comitum Flandrię (Genealogy of the Counts of Flanders) with the following statement: “In the 792nd year after the Lord’s incarnation, when Charlemagne was reigning in France, seeing that Flanders was empty and uncultivated and heavily wooded, Count Lidric of Harelbeke took possession of it.”
This sentence tells us little about the actual beginnings of the county of Flanders but it does tell us something about the way Lambert imagined the beginnings of the county in the first part of the twelfth century.