Thursday, July 02, 2009

English Historical Review - June 2009

The June 2009 issue of the English Historical Review (Volume 124, Number 508) has now been published, and it includes a couple of articles that would be of interest to medievalists.

History and Hagiography in the Late Eleventh Century: The Life and Work of Herman the Archdeacon, Monk of Bury St Edmunds, by Tom Licence

Pages 516-544
Abstract: During the 1090s, a monk of Bury St Edmunds, called Herman, wrote an account of St Edmund's miracles by weaving them into a historical framework founded on the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. His aim was to portray St Edmund as a national saint whose mercies had helped to shape the fortunes of the English people. Herman's work is an invaluable source for historians working on the eleventh century, but his identity is in doubt with the consequence that even his name is disputed. Antonia Gransden argues that ‘Herman’ in fact was a French hagiographer called Bertran who came to England c. 1090. The present article overturns this theory, painting quite a different picture of the monk whose work sheds new light on historical writing and intellectual culture at his monastery. Formerly a senior cleric in the bishop's household, Herman had spent up to thirty years or more in East Anglia, managing the bishop's correspondence with the king and dealing with major players who feature in his history. As a senior monk at Bury St Edmunds he would preach to the common people and invite them to revere the saint's relics. Moreover, he had an ambitious vision for his written project, which was uniquely innovative for its time as much in its portrayal of history as in its design.

Making Sense of the Early Middle Ages, by Roger Collins

Pages 641-665

Synopsis: A review of five recent books: The New Cambridge Medieval History. Vol. I: c.500–c.700, edited by Paul Fouracre; Framing the Middle Ages: Europe and the Mediterranean, 400–800, by Chris Wickham; Paradigms and Methods in Early Medieval Studies, edited by Chazelle Celia and Felice Lifshitz; Europe after Rome: A New Cultural History 500–1000, by Julia M.H. Smith; and The Early Middle Ages: The Birth of Europe, by Lynette Olson. Professor Collins offers a negative opinion of the current work being done here, concluding that, "Many historians of the period are apparently unwilling to write in clear and comprehensible English for the enthusiastic readership that exists for historical works, preferring to cloak their meaning in language that is aimed only at an initiated élite. All in all, there seems to be far too much navel-gazing going on, and generally there is greater danger of intellectual paralysis than of over-confidence."

For more information on accessing these articles, please see the Oxford University Press website.