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Typology of Medieval Historiography Reconsidered: A Social Re-interpretation of Monastic Annals, Chronicals and Gesta
By Steven Vanderputten
Historical Social Research / Historische Sozialforschung(HSR), Vol. 26:4 (2001)
Abstract: The present article is devoted to the question whether it is possible to reconsider the accepted chronology of medieval historical writing by revising typological theory and by using statistical reasoning. Firstly, I argue that the choice of using a certain genre by medieval historians is closely related to the social perceptions of their own group, while shifting typological preferences are also very likely to reflect changes in these attitudes. Secondly, statistical analysis has shown that the thematic interests expressed by these authors in each of these idioms are equally subject to strong influences from contemporary world-views. The latter observation was made following statistical analysis of a selection of annals from the Southern Low Countries, which has shown that even the contents of the most rigid type of historiography was subject to strong fluctuations, which I related to the changing situation of medieval monastic communities in medieval society. Consequently, our approach of medieval historical texts should be inspired by a more careful analysis of their social setting.