Matthew Paris on the Mongol Invasion in Europe
By Zsuzsanna Papp Reed
Matthew Paris is one of the most important chroniclers of medieval England. Writing. his account in the mid-thirteenth century, Matthew covers quite a lot of material, including the Mongol attacks on Eastern Europe in the 1230s and 1240s. This book focuses on these sections concerning the Mongols, to answer questions on how did Matthew learn about these attacks from his monastery in St Albans, how he put together this account, and how it became such an important source for later historians when covering the Mongols.
The place is St Albans, Herefordshire, England. The time is the first half of the thirteenth century – the world was about to end in the middle anyway. The protagonist: Matthew Paris, chronicler, Benedictine monk. It is uncertain when Matthew was born (probably around 1200), but many details of his later life and career have survived. He is doubtless one of the best-informed chronicles and historians of thirteenth-century England, and the author of a larger number of works. His awe-inspiring Chronica majora is often seen as the apex of the St Albans historiographical tradition. As will be detailed in Chapter 2, the Chronica majora, the narrative which contains the Mongol story, is itself part of a bigger, loosely connected body of texts: diverse manuscripts repeatedly amended, abridged, edited, and cut, often illustrated by tinted drawings, marginal illustrations, and maps, mostly in his own hand.
Who is this work for?
Almost every English-language book about the medieval Mongols will include a quote from Matthew Paris’ chronicles. He is, for better or worse, often the first source historians use to describe the Mongol invasions of Europe. Therefore, if you are interested in this episode of history, this book will be an interesting read. However, it does not aim to be an account of those events. Instead, this book tries to understand how Matthew came to write about these invasions. This can be seen as a case study to help answer the author’s question: “What is history and how did Matthew view his duty as a historian?” It makes this book an even more interesting read for those wanting to know more about historiography.
Zsuzsanna Papp Reed is a Visiting Professor at Central European University. Her research often involves examining medieval sources, particularly from England. Her work on the Mongols and Matthew Paris can be seen in this conference paper, which she gave in 2021:
Typeset, ready for last corrections… pic.twitter.com/HhNCii5IYC
— Zsuzsanna Reed (@kolorlokal) March 26, 2022
You can learn more about this book from the publisher’s website