History 481B/551B

Medieval Historians

Required Books:

The readings consist entirely of translations of the works of the medieval writers I have chosen. As you will see from the attached schedule, there is a good deal of reading; inmost cases, we will read the entire work. Keep up with the reading.

  • L. Sherley-Price, tr. (Rev. By R. E. Latham), Bede. Ecclesiastical History of the English Church and People. (Penguin pb.)
  • L. Thorpe, tr., Gregory of Tours. A History of the Franks (Penguin pb.)
  • L. Thorpe, tr., Geoffrey of Monmouth. The History of the Kings of Britain (Penguin pb.)
  • J. Scott and J. O. Ward, Hugh of Poitiers. The Vézelay Chronicle (Pegasus pb.)
  • G. Brererton, tr., Jean Froissart.Chronicles (Penguin pb.)
  • M.R.B. Shaw, tr., Joinville & Villehardouin. Chronicles of the Crusades (Penguin pb.)
  • E.R.A. Sewter, tr., The Alexiad of Anna Comnena (Penguin pb.)
  • F. Rosenthal, tr. (ed. and abridged by N. J. Dawood), Ibn Khaldun. The Muqaddimah (Princeton University Press pb.)

The Course:

The seminar will explore the subject matter, sources, methods, sense of history, and utility of a representative sampling of medieval European historical writing and, for the sake of comparison, contemporary historical works by one Byzantine and one Arab Muslim historian. During the semester, additional authors will be introduced.

Format and Requirements:

All students in the course will write a 20-25 page research paper which makes use of both primary and secondary sources on some topic in medieval historiography. The graduate students will, in addition, prepare and present in class an oral report on some medieval historian other than those assigned for the course. All paper and oral report topics must be approved by me. The paper must have the usual apparatus: notes and bibliography, both prepared in accordance with some accepted style sheet (Turabian, Chicago Style Manual, MLA Stylesheet, etc.). If at this late date in your academic careers, you are uncertain about the obligations of academic honesty (i.e. the avoidance of plagiarism), please read the applicable university publications or ask me.

Aside from occasional supplemental lectures and the oral reports, the seminar will be conducted on a discussion basis. Preparation, attendance, and participation are essential for the success of our discussions and to do well in the course. For those in HIST 481B, the final grade will be based on the paper (75%) and class participation (25%); for those in HIST 551B, the grade will be 50% for the paper, 25% for the oral reports, and 25% for class participation.

Guidelines for Reading Medieval Historians

In order to facilitate your readings in the medieval historians I have selected for the seminar, I thought it might be useful to list at least some things you should be looking for as you read. The following list is not in any priority order; you should feel free to note other issues as well.

  1. What do we know of the personal background of the writer: such biographical details as family, career, gender, religion, national/ethnic identification, etc.? To what extent do these things shape the work? Related issue: ‘prejudices’?
  2. The author’s knowledge of Biblical, Classical, and Church history. On which earlier writers and to what extent are they dependent, both for content and manner of presentation? For example: do they make use of speeches, as many Classical writers did?
  3. Be especially alert to the idea(s) of the past, origins, causation, etc. for each writer. What do they think are the primary forces active in history? To what extent are they aware, even implicitly, of impersonal causation, the role of individuals (especially human psychology), and, perhaps more difficult for this period, economics, climate, demography, and ecology?
  4. To what extent, why, and how well does each historian make use of documents?
  5. Level of literacy. How well do they present their ideas and materials? Do they analyze or do they simply marshal materials for the sake of polemical ends? Do they use humor (including irony and sarcasm)? Any other noteworthy rhetorical devices?
  6. At the end of the semester, we will want to compare the works of the Western historians with one another and, more particularly, with our Byzantine and Arabic examples.

HIST 481B/551B is a 4-credit course that will meet Thursdays, 2:50-5:50.

Instructor: Professor Gerald E. Kadish
Office: LT 609
Phone: x72488
e-mail address: kadishg@binghamton.edu

Office hours: M 3:30 - 4:30; W 9:40 - 10:40, Th 1:10 - 2:30 and by appointment.


NOTE: Be sure to read the introductory material in each book.

9/4: Introduction to the course and to medieval historiography.
9/11,18 Gregory of Tours, I (Books I-V), II (Books VI-X)
9/25: Bede
10/2: Geoffrey of Monmouth
10/9,16: Hugh of Poitiers, I (to p. 197), II (pp. 198-375)
10/23: Joinville and Villehardouin
10/30: Anna Comnena
11/6: No class scheduled
11/13: Froissart
11/20: Ibn Khaldun, I (pp. 3-261)
11/27: No class scheduled
12/4: Ibn Khaldun, II (pp. 263 - 459)
12/11: Oral reports; term papers due.

Last Updated: 12/4/14