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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Generally a chronicle (Latin: chronica, from Greek χρονικά, from χρόνος, chronos, "time") is a historical account of facts and events ranged in chronological order. Typically, equal weight is given for historically important events and local events, the purpose being the recording of events that occurred, seen from the perspective of the chronicler. This is in contrast to a narrative or history, which sets selected events in a meaningful interpretive context and excludes those the author does not see as important. Scholars categorize the genre of chronicle into two subgroups: live chronicles, and dead chronicles. A dead chronicle is one where the author gathers his list of events up to the time of his writing, but does not record further events as they occur. A live chronicle is where one or more authors add to a chronicle in a regular fashion, recording contemporary events shortly after they occur. Because of the immediacy of the information, historians tend to value live chronicles, such as annals, over dead ones.

"The chronicle is one of the quintessentially Christian forms of historical writing," Michael Kulikowsky has remarked.[1] "The ultimate goal of this exercise is usually to place the events of human history in the framework of Christian time, to record the annual stages by which human history marches towards the Second Coming" This makes the Christian chroniclers particularly awake to wars, plagues and disasters.

The term often refers to a book written by a chronicler in the Middle Ages describing historical events in a country, or the lives of a nobleman or a clergyman, although it is also applied to a record of public events. Various contemporary newspapers or other periodicals have adopted "chronicle" as part of their name. Various fictional stories have also adopted "chronicle" as part of their title, to give an impression of epic proportion to their stories. A chronicle which traces world history is called a Universal chronicle.

Chronicles are the predecessors of modern "time lines" rather than analytical histories. They represent accounts, in prose or verse, of national or worldwide events over a considerable period of time, the lifetime of the individual chronicler and often several subsequent continuators. If the chronicles deal with events year by year, they are often called annals. Unlike the modern historian, most chroniclers tended to take their information as they found it, and made little attempt to separate fact from legend. The point-of-view of most chroniclers is highly localised, to the extent that many anonymous chroniclers can be sited in individual abbeys.

The most important English chronicles are the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, started under the patronage of King Alfred in the ninth century and continued until the twelfth century, and the Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland (1577-87) by Raphael Holinshed and other writers; the latter documents were important sources of materials for Elizabethan drama.[2]

It is impossible to say how many chronicles exist, as the many ambiguities in the definition of the genre make it impossible to draw clear distinctions of what should or should not be included. However, the Encyclopedia of the Medieval Chronicle, scheduled for publication in 2009, lists some 2600 items written between 300 and 1500 AD.

Alphabetical list of notable chronicles


  1. ^ Kulikowski, "Barbarians in Gaul, Usurpers in Britain" Britannia 31 (2000:325-345).
  2. ^ 'A Glossary of Literary Terms' - M.H. Abrams

See also

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

CHRONICLE (from Gr. xpopos, time). The historical works written in the middle ages are variously designated by the terms "histories," "annals," or "chronicles"; it is difficult, however, to give an exact definition of each of these terms, since they do not correspond to determinate classes of writings. The definitions proposed by A. Giry (in La Grande Encyclopedic), by Ch. V. Langlois (in the Manuel de bibliographie historique), and by E. Bernheim (in the Lehrbuch der historischen Methode), are manifestly insufficient. Perhaps the most reasonable is that propounded by H. F. Delaborde at the Ecole des Chartes, that chronicles are accounts of a universal character, while annals relate either to a locality, or to a religious community, or even to a whole people, but without attempting to treat of all periods or all peoples. The primitive type, he says, was furnished by Eusebius of Caesarea, who wrote (c. 303) a chronicle in Greek, which was soon translated into Latin and frequently recopied throughout the middle ages; in the form of synoptic and synchronistic tables it embraced the history of the world, both Jewish and Christian, since the Creation. This ingenious opinion, however, is only partially exact, for it is certain that the medieval authors or scribes were not conscious of any well-marked distinction between annals and chronicles; indeed, they often apparently employed the terms indiscriminately.

Whether or not a distinction can be made, chronicles and annals (q.v.) have points of great similarity. Chronicles are accounts generally of an impersonal character, and often anonymous, composed in varying proportions of passages reproduced textually from sources which the chronicler is seldom at pains to indicate, and of personal recollections the veracity of which remains to be determined. Some of them are written with so little intelligence and spirit that one is led to regard the work of composition as a piece of drudgery imposed on the clergy and monks by their superiors. To distinguish what is original from what is borrowed, to separate fact from falsehood, and to establish the value of each piece of evidence, are in such circumstances a difficult undertaking, and one which has exercised the sagacity of scholars, especially since the 17th century. The work, moreover, is immense, by reason of the enormous number of medieval chronicles, both Christian and Mahommedan.

The Christian chronicles were first written in the two learned languages, Greek and Latin. At an early stage we have proof of the employment of national languages, the most famous instances being found at the two extremities of Europe, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the most ancient form of which goes back to the 10th century, and the so-called Chronicle of Nestor, in Palaeo-Slavonic, written in the 11th and 1 2th centuries.

In the 13th and 14th centuries the number of chronicles written in the vulgar tongue continued to increase, at least in continental Europe, which far outpaced England in this respect. From the 15th century, with the revived study of Greek and Roman literature, the traditional form of chronicles, as well as of annals, tended to disappear and to be replaced by another and more scientific form, based on the models of antiquity - that of the historical composition combining skilful arrangement with elegance of literary style. The transition, however, was very gradual, and it was not until the 17th century that the traditional form became practically extinct.

See E. Bernheim, Lehrbuch der historischen Methode (4th ed., 1903); H. Bloch, "Geschichte der deutschen Geschichtsschreibung im Mittelalter" in the Handbuch of G. von Below and F. Meinecke (Munich, 1903 seq.); Max Jansen, "Historiographie and Quellen der deutschen Geschichte bis 1500," in Alois Meister's Grundris (Leipzig, 1906); and the Introduction (1904) to A. Molinier's Les Sources de l'histoire de France. (C. B.*)

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