The Earliest States of Eastern Europe
DG-2013, 439-463

Little forms of big history in medieval manuscripts (some books from South Germany of the ninth–eleventh centuries)

A. I. Sidorov

The paper deals with the content of some South German manuscripts of the ninth–eleventh centuries and studies the role and the signifi cance of the so-called minor forms of historical narrative in the historical culture of the Carolingian society. Not only extended and sophisticated authors’works but also small texts with simple form and trivial content played an important role in the formation and the translation of the images of past, present, and future. Such minor texts included, for example, genealogies, notes of the Six Ages of the World (de sex aetatibus mundi), minor and paschal annals. These works often were used as propaganda by courtly authors. Being short and easy to understand, these texts legitimized the ruling Carolingian dynasty, created its historical background, eliminated its rivals from history. Such texts circulated intensively around the empire, but outside the court they quickly loosed their propagandistic content which confl icted with the attitudes of local elites. The manuscripts of the ninth–eleventh centuries show where the ‘limits of possible’ lay and how this confl ict took place. Copyists, redactors, and readers in the periphery of the empire were interested more in the chronological schemes of such texts than in their propagandistic content. These people were interested more in counting years and fi lling chronological lacunas than in mentioning or forgetting particular historical fi gures. The codicological context of such texts helps us to follow their perception by an ‘alien’ audience. One manuscript easily could contain texts which were ideologically antagonistic, but which together were able to cover and characterize a long period of time. The study of South German manuscripts throws a new light on the problem of the emergence of medieval annalistic writing. The birth of this genre cannot be adequately explained by means of the evolutionist model which is widely accepted by modern scholars. Minor and paschal annals were not predecessors of ‘major’ annals, it is even problematic to regard them as ‘historical writing’. They had other purposes and were intended, fi rst of all, for temporal orientation in the Sixth (and the last) of the Ages of the World. They refl ect a gradual victory of the Christian notion of time and a growth of eschatological tension in the Carolingian society.

Middle Ages, historical writing, annals, genealogies, Six Ages of the World, codicology, Carolingian empire, Germany, historical culture, monasteries

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