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9. Historiography and Pseudo-History

Stefanie Würth

Subject Literature » Medieval Literature

Place Northern Europe » Scandinavia

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631235026.2004.00012.x


Although historiography and history were highly esteemed in the Middle Ages, it was very difficult to position them among the septem artes of medieval learning. Historia was chronologically oriented narrative. As narrative, history was the literary product of scholarly activity and was placed within the field of grammar and rhetoric. Since historical events, legends and fiction permeated medieval historiography, the latter can be distinguished from fiction only to a limited extent. During the late Middle Ages historiographical compendia developed into specialized encyclopedias which were organized according to the same principles as universal encyclopedias. The compilers selected the sources they used and added them in abridged form to their narratives. It was nevertheless open to the compilers to intervene in a number of ways, ranging from critical selection to the global adoption of complete works. In general there was no limit to the combination of traditions that could be made. It was always possible to update already existing texts. Sometimes the result was a thorough interweaving of several sources. An Icelandic example of an elaborate compilation of this kind is Flateyjarbók , containing several kings' sagas, added from supplementary sources by a redactor of the fourteenth century. Historiography, like other genres, depends on the specific political and cultural circumstances ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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