Skip to main content

IMC 2019: Sessions

Session 1108: New Approaches to Early Medieval Historical Writing

Wednesday 3 July 2019, 11.15-12.45

Moderator/Chair:Hervin Fernández-Aceves, School of History / Institute for Medieval Studies, University of Leeds
Paper 1108-aThe Production of De excidio et conquestu Britanniae by Gildas
(Language: English)
Ralf Palmgren, Department of Philosophy, History, Culture & Art Studies, University of Helsinki
Index terms: Archives and Sources, Ecclesiastical History, Language and Literature - Latin, Sermons and Preaching
Paper 1108-b'It is the course of events which demands this': The Place of Saints and Miracles in the Histories of Gregory of Tours
(Language: English)
Mary Hitchman, Faculty of History, University of Oxford
Index terms: Ecclesiastical History, Hagiography, Historiography - Medieval

Paper -a:
We know that the British churchman Gildas wrote the work De excidio et conquestu Britanniae. It includes scarcely any hints of dates and few names of people or places. It is therefore unknown exactly when or where Gildas wrote his polemic. The dating of the text has been discussed since the Middle Ages producing a variety of theories. In this presentation as a contribution to the IMC 2019 theme of Medieval Materialities I will contextualise the production of Gildas' work. With reference to previous theories I will conclude by presenting my own interpretation of where the work was probably written.

Paper -b:
Gregory of Tours justified the inclusion of saints and miracles in his Histories as a part of his truthful narrative (Histories II.pref.), but this does not explain why he wrote about the same events differently in his hagiography. Gregory’s hagiography is overwhelmingly simplistic, whilst the Histories is rife with contradictions and confusion. By comparing two of the saints whom Gregory chose to write about in both - Eparchius (Histories VI.8, Glory of the Confessors 99), and Aravatius (Histories II.5, Glory of the Confessors 71) - it becomes clear that Gregory favoured the Histories as a place for social context and his dark humour. The argument for Gregory's Histories as a handbook for clerical elites is well-established; this paper will go further by proposing that complex saints and miracles in the Histories were included to satirise the instant gratification that was common in early medieval hagiography.