HISTORIANS IN THE MIDDLE AGES by Beryl Smalley

HISTORIANS IN THE MIDDLE AGES

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

One of the great medieval scholars of this century patiently attempts to simplify a labyrinthine subject for laymen and beginning students. She briefly describes Roman, Jewish, and early Christian roots of medieval approaches to the past, orienting the modern reader in a world where time was seen only in the context of eternity as history ""unrolled itself between two definite moments"" (Creation and Doomsday). Medievalists will realize that the author has had to be ruthlessly selective in what she treats: she sticks mostly to sources available in modern translations, and still manages to classify the esoteric branches of ninth to thirteenth century historiography in a clear way. Given the bewildering variety of writers (most of them will be unknown to non-specialists), her comprehensive, shapely account is no mean feat. The personalities of various biographers, chroniclers, apologists, compilers, and recorders of crusades emerge engagingly but discreetly. We see how medieval attitudes toward history gradually moved toward more varied perspectives on both past and present, finding individual causes and purposes within historical events rather than imposing them from predetermined schemata like Augustine's ""six ages of the world."" One rarely sees a popular treatment of the ""Dark"" Ages which does not condescend annoyingly. Miss Samlley's respect for both subject and audience is a pleasure.

Pub Date: March 18th, 1975
Publisher: Scribners