(redirected from Chroniclers)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus.


official record of events, set down in order of occurrence, important to the people of a nation, state, or city. Almanacs, The Congressional Record in the United States, and the Annual Register in England are chronicles. From ancient times rulers have made certain that written records of their achievements proclaimed their glory to posterity. King Alfred of England was perhaps the first to encourage objectivity. The Anglo-Saxon ChronicleAnglo-Saxon Chronicle,
collective name given several English monastic chronicles in Anglo-Saxon, all stemming from a compilation made from old annals and other sources c.891.
..... Click the link for more information.
, in lively English prose, notes the inauspicious beginnings of the British navy in A.D. 897: while pursuing the Danes, Alfred's long boats ran aground at low tide. Other chronicles of literary as well as historical interest are Tacitus' Annals (1st cent. A.D.), Bede's Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum (7th cent.), Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae (c.1135), and Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland (1577). Modern developments of the form include the daily metropolitan newspapernewspaper,
publication issued periodically, usually daily or weekly, to convey information and opinion about current events. Early Newspapers

The earliest recorded effort to inform the public of the news was the Roman Acta diurna,
..... Click the link for more information.
, which provides exhaustive coverage of a panorama of events, from space exploration to kitchen range experimentation; and such codifications of journalistic sources as The New York Times Index and the New York Times Idea Bank—the latter a computerized Index, which makes any name or fact instantly available.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(in Russian, khronika), the most prevalent type of historiographic work in Europe during the Middle Ages. Chronicles did not differ essentially from other types of historical works, for example, annals and histories; such titles as Chronicle, or Annals and Chronicle, or History were very common. Consequently, in modern historiography the term “chronicle” is often used in a broad sense and is applied to all works of medieval historiography without exception.

Chronicles as such, unlike annals, generally contained a detailed and connected account of events but systematized and interpreted the historical material to a lesser extent than was the case with histories. Until the Renaissance (and in a number of countries until the 18th century) the chronicle, like other genres of feudal and ecclesiastical historiography and hagiography, was based on a theological concept of history. This concept had been introduced in the early fifth century by St. Augustine and developed in the 13th century by Thomas Aquinas in a purely feudal spirit.

In the Middle Ages the concept of cause and effect was lacking in chronicles, which instead were based on the concept of providentialism. Political events were regarded as manifestations of the age-old struggle between god and the devil and between heaven and hell. Providentialism also engendered such characteristic features of chronicles as the absence of an objective criterion of truth, an uncritical attitude toward sources, and faith in miracles and heavenly signs. Outright falsification was quite common in chronicles; examples were false accounts whose aim was to establish the antiquity of a privilege granted to a monastery, church, or bishopric.

In the early Middle Ages, world chronicles, or universal chronicles (chronica mundi or chronicon universale) were especially popular. Accounts of events in universal chronicles generally began with the creation of the world, and all the material dealing with events taking place before the chronicler’s lifetime was taken from one or more earlier chronicles. The accounts in universal chronicles included contemporary events and concluded with a discourse on the future of mankind, which was interpreted in a spirit of Christian eschatology. The best-known universal chronicles included the Chronicle of Isidore of Seville (seventh century) and the Chronicle of Otto of Freising (12th century).

Until the 13th century, monasteries were the centers of chronicle writing. Chronicles were generally in Latin; The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, written in Old English, was an exception. As national states emerged, chronicles devoted to the history of a single country and written in that country’s language became increasingly widespread. Beginning in the 13th century, major chronicle compilations reflecting the initial stages in the formation of national states were written in Latin, including the Great Chronicles of France (13th—15th centuries), the chronicle of Matthew Paris (13th century) in England, and The General Chronicle of Spain (13th-14th centuries).

In the 13th and 14th centuries, chronicles composed in monasteries were supplemented by chronicles written in the spirit of feudal chivalry, such as the Chronicles of J. Froissart (14th century). Chronicles of urban life included those by Dino Compagni and G. Villani in Florence (14th century), the Lübeck chronicle of Detmar and J. Hertz (14th–15th centuries), and the chronicle of the Augsburg merchant B. Zink (15th century). Although they largely retained a feudal world view, these chronicles of urban life had a more secular nature; they were marked by an antifeudal spirit owing to the prolonged conflict that was taking place between the cities and the seigneurs. Like the ecclesiastical feudal chronicles, the chronicles of urban life had a distinctly class-oriented character. The ecclesiastical feudal chronicles defended the preeminence of the ecclesiastical and secular feudal lords, and the chronicles of urban life upheld the interests of the aristocrats and the wealthy merchant class.

As works of medieval historiography, many chronicles, regardless of the individual chronicler’s methodological approach, serve as major sources for the study of political history and the history of daily life, mores, and material and nonmaterial culture. Examples are the chronicle of Ordericus Vitalius (12th century), that of the Franciscan friar Salimbene (13th century), and the French Chronicle of the First Four Valois (14th century). The chronicles of urban life generally contained more information of an economic nature than the chronicles produced in monasteries or those written in a spirit of feudal chivalry. The last two types of chronicles, on the other hand, especially the chronicles written in a spirit of chivalry, contained more information on diplomatic and military history.

Illustrated chronicles were of considerable importance as well. The miniatures in medieval chronicles are works of art as well as original historical sources; outstanding examples are the 15th-century miniatures in the Great Chronicles of France.

With the onset of the Renaissance, there was a gradual decline in chronicle writing that reflected the general ideological and methodological crisis taking place in medieval historiography. Humanist historians rejected theological interpretations of history and asserted that the most important task of historical works was to establish the natural causes of historical events. The last major chronicle compilations to appear were published in the late 16th century, including R. Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Irelande (1578). These works promoted an interest in history that had been aroused by the dissemination of the ideas of the Renaissance and the Reformation, and themselves reflected the influence of these ideas to a greater or lesser degree.

Byzantine chronicles, both universal chronicles and those dealing with the history of the Byzantine Empire, constituted a particularly extensive group. In the ancient Russian state (Rus’) and in a number of other Slavic countries, the historical works corresponding to the chronicles were the letopisi (seeCHRONICLES) and the khronografy (chronographs).

In European historical scholarship the term “chronicle” also refers to many works of medieval Oriental historiography.


Kosminskii, E. A. Istoriografiia srednikh vekov. [Moscow] 1963.
Vainshtein, O. L. Zapadnoevropeiskaia srednevekovaia istoriografiia. Moscow-Leningrad, 1964.
Liublinskaia, A. D. Istochnikovedenie istorii srednikh vekov. Leningrad, 1955.
Wattenbach, W. Das Schriftwesen im Mittelalter, 4th ed. Graz, 1958.
Lorenz, O. Deutschlands Geschichtsquellen im Mittelalter, 3rd ed., vols. 1–2. Berlin, 1886–87.
Brincken, A. D. von. Studien zur lateinischen Weltchronistik. Düsseldorf, 1957.
Grundmann, H. Geschichtsschreibung im Mittelalter. Göttingen [1965].
Poole, R. L. Chronicles and Annals. Oxford, 1926.




in literature, a genre that narrates memorable historical events in chronological sequence. The chronicle focuses on time as the most important element of the historical process. In diaries, the personality of the author is of primary importance, and in historical novels, that of the hero. In a chronicle the plot is impelled forward by the irreversible and overwhelming march of time, which dominates the actions and lives of the characters.

The use of the historical chronicle in literature began during the Renaissance owing to the emergence of the issue of man’s relationship to time. The concept of time was replacing the classical concept of fate and the medieval concept of god. The new concept of time retained the suprapersonal and omnipotent aspects of the earlier two concepts but had an innovative worldly aspect as well. An early example of the use of the historical chronicle in literature was Shakespeare’s use of R. Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Irelande (1578) in several plays. The romantic chronicles of P. Mérimée and A. de Vigny were based on the romantic concept of the spirit of the time and of the individuality of each historical epoch. A sense of a restricted period of time and of time standing still established the tone of the chronicles of manorial family life by S. T. Aksakov and N. S. Leskov.

Newspaper items (in Russian, khronika), with their essentially fragmentary nature, have served as sources for plots and narrative techniques in the modern novel; an example is the figure of the chronicler in some novels by F. M. Dostoevsky. In M. E. Saltykov-Shchedrin’s novel The History of a City (1869–70), the method of the early historical chronicle was parodied in order to satirize stagnant everyday life and the mechanical march of time alienated from real life and suffocating life.

In the 20th century the chronicle as a literary genre underwent a renewal owing to the evolution of the epic style, as in M. Gorky’s novel The Life of Klim Samgin (1925–36). Another factor in the renewal of the chronicle form has been the tendency of some literary works to include actual historical documents, as seen in novels by J. Dos Passos and N. Mailer. Although the chronicle is comparatively rare as an independent literary genre, when used as an element in literary works it provides a means for including historical time in a literary plot.


Grossman, L. P. N. S. Leskov. Moscow, 1945.
Likhachev, D. S. Poetika drevnerusskoi literatury, 2nd ed. Leningrad, 1971.
Pinskii, L. E. Shekspir. Moscow, 1971.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Another generally well-informed chronicler, Orderic Vitalis, added that Tirel was reputedly a dead shot, that there were servants on the scene with Rufus and Tirel, and that Tirel fled to France after the killing, while Prince Henry made for Winchester (where the royal treasury was located).
Though criticized by some modern historians for launching what amounted to a smear campaign against Enrique and his reign, [30] Isabel's chroniclers responded to the political crisis that erupted after Enrique's death with the political savvy one would expect from those in the employ of the newly-ascendant queen.
We do recognise nowadays that chroniclers frequently wrote even distant history in such a way as to reflect on their own present.
Moreover, chroniclers employed several narrative strategies to reckon time: frequently each new year is signalled in the narrative by the phrase 'Anno Domini 14...', and then events of the year are narrated chronologically.
Some of the smaller clans never evolved a clan name." What is perhaps even more revealing and shocking to some readers, than the lack of clan names for smaller Polish clans, is the assertion that "even the Piast dynasty was labeled 'Piast' [only] by chroniclers of the sixteenth century." (p.93)
A central feature of this text is Kaufman's sense of the literary quality of the chroniclers of the fifteenth century, and he stresses the literary and narrative sophistication of the chronicles and the capacity of the chroniclers to write interesting and exciting work.
That the relationship between orality and literacy in the fourteenth century was complex, varied, and constantly troubled is the initial claim and the eventual burden of this ambitious book, which discusses texts philosophical (Ockham, Wyclif), historical (chroniclers of the reigns of Edward III and Richard II) and literary (Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, "The Knight's Tale") to illustrate and elaborate its large cultural-historical claim.
In this regard Tasso's steady reliance upon chroniclers of the First Crusade prompts Murrin to claim that in Gerusalemme liberata "the poetry of war comes very close to versified history" (96).
Plaisance's emphasis on aristocratic opposition to the theocracy, then, may indicate undue reliance on the explanations of Savonarolan chroniclers and the assertions of the friar himself.
He comments on what contemporary chroniclers and modern scholars have said about specific incidents in Bourbon's life.
His main arguments - that the development of institutions (particularly parliament) played a crucial part in the reign, that "cooperation and consensus" (202) became increasingly important in political life, and that Edward was able to maintain, largely unchanged, the "power of the crown" (202) - lead to an assessment of Edward III's achievement "less through the formal statements of the statute roll and the rhetoric of the later chroniclers, and more through the reality of contemporary politics" (200).
Milton dismisses the earlier chroniclers as "monks and mechanicks" because of their failure to meet the elevated standards of stylistic eloquence set by Tacitus and Livy.