Reference > Cambridge History > From the Beginnings to the Cycles of Romance > Latin Chroniclers from the Eleventh to the Thirteenth Centuries > The Northumbrian School of English Medieval History; Simeon of Durham
  Characteristics of the Chroniclers Florence of Worcester  

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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume I. From the Beginnings to the Cycles of Romance.

IX. Latin Chroniclers from the Eleventh to the Thirteenth Centuries.

§ 3. The Northumbrian School of English Medieval History; Simeon of Durham.


“Of the several schools of English medieval history,” writes Stubbs, 7  “the most ancient, the most fertile, the longest lived and the most widely spread was the Northumbrian.” At its head stands the great name of Bede, the primary authority and the pattern of most of the Latin historians of our period. The first conspicuous representative of the northern school of chroniclers in the twelfth century is Simeon, precentor of the monastery of Durham, and he, like so many historiographers after him, makes Bede the foundation of the early part of his history. His second source of information, covering the period from the death of Bede down to the beginning of the ninth century, was the lost Northumbrian annals known to us through Simeon alone. From the middle of the ninth century down to 1121 he borrows his matter almost entirely from the chronicle of Florence of Worcester and the first continuator of the latter. The rest of Simeon’s narrative, extending to the year 1129, probably represents his own independent work. Little is known of Simeon’s life, and it is impossible to determine whether he was the actual compiler, or merely the editor, of the chronicle which bears his name. His work, however, had a high repute throughout the Middle Ages, and his fame was second only to that of Bede among the writers of the Northumbrian school. Simeon’s chronicle was continued down to the close of the reign of Stephen by two priors of Hexham. The elder of the two, Richard, wrote an account of the Acts of King Stephen, and the Battle of the Standard, which contains much original information. His son, John, brought the narrative down to the year 1154, and is an independent authority of considerable value. Another northcountryman, the canonised Ailred or Ethelred, a Cistercian monk of Rievaulx, claims a place among the many chroniclers who wrote of the battle of the Standard. His account is neither full nor so full nor so trustworthy as that of Richard of Hexham, but is somewhat more ambitious, in that it professes to give after the manner of the classical historians, the speeches of the rival leaders before the encounter. For a brief period about the middle of the twelfth century there was, in Northumbria as elsewhere, a curious break in the activity of the chroniclers. But, in the next generation, two writers who worthily uphold the traditions of the northern school appear in William of Newburgh and Roger of Hoveden. William confines himself to his own times; but Roger attempts a comprehensive history of several centuries, and, gathering his materials from the best available authorities, gives us what Stubbs calls “the full harvest of the labours of the Northumbrian historians.”   7

Note 7. Preface to Roger of Hoveden’s Chronicle, Rolls Series. [ back ]

CONTENTS · VOLUME CONTENTS · INDEX OF ALL CHAPTERS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  Characteristics of the Chroniclers Florence of Worcester  
 
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