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The Present and the Past in Medieval Irish Chronicles

The Present and the Past in Medieval Irish Chronicles

NICHOLAS EVANS
Volume: 27
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 312
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt3fgmsv
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  • Book Info
    The Present and the Past in Medieval Irish Chronicles
    Book Description:

    Ireland has the most substantial corpus of annalistic chronicles for the early period in western Europe. They are crucial sources for understanding the Gaelic world of Ireland and Scotland, and offer insights into contacts with the wider Christian world. However, there is still a high degree of uncertainty about their development, production, and location prior to 1100, which makes it difficult to draw sound conclusions from them. This book analyses the principal Irish chronicles, especially the "Annals of Ulster", "Annals of Tigernach", and the "Chronicum Scotorum", identifying their inter-relationships, the main changes to the texts, and the centres where they were written in the tenth and eleventh centuries - a significant but neglected period. The detailed study enables the author to argue that the chroniclers were in contact with each other, exchanging written notices of events, and that therefore the chronicle texts reflect the social connections of the Irish ecclesiastical and secular elites. The author also considers how the sections describing the early Christian period (approximately 431 to 730 AD) were altered by subsequent chroniclers; by focussing on the inclusion of material on Mediterranean events as well as on Gaelic kings, and by comparing the chronicles with other contemporary texts, he reconstructs the chronicles' contents and chronology at different times, showing how the accounts were altered to reflect and promote certain views of history. Thus, while enabling readers to evaluate the sources more effectively, he also demonstrates that the chronicles were sophisticated and significant documents in themselves, reflecting different facets of contemporary medieval society and their shifting attitudes to creating and changing accounts of the past. Dr Nicholas Evans is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Glasgow.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-813-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. MAPS, FIGURES AND TABLES
    (pp. vi-viii)
  4. PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
    (pp. ix-ix)
    Nicholas Evans
  5. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. x-x)
  6. NOTES ON ANNALS AND NAMES
    (pp. xi-xiii)
  7. Maps
    (pp. xiv-xvi)
  8. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-16)

    The Irish chronicles, also known as the Irish annals, are crucial sources for our understanding of early medieval Ireland and Scotland.¹ They have frequently been the basis for studies of political history, have provided evidence for the development of the Irish Church, natural phenomena, the Vikings, and have been the subject of many studies.² Moreover, the people and events described in the Irish chronicles recur in other texts, for instance kingship tales and saints’ Lives, so the Irish annals are used to provide the dating and context for these sources.³

    It is, therefore, fair to claim that the Irish annals...

  9. 1 THE ‘ANNALS OF ULSTER’, 912–1100
    (pp. 17-44)

    The ‘Annals of Ulster’ have long been recognised as one of the most important sets of Irish annals, yet it is surprising how little research has been published on the sources of this chronicle’s tenth- and eleventh-century sections. This is perhaps because, as Aubrey Gwynn, stated, ‘That the Annals of Ulster, down to the end of the twelfth century, are derived from an ancient Book of Ard Macha is so plain that no scholar has ever questioned this conclusion.’¹ Such pronouncements may be correct, but they should be confirmed by proper studies, as is the case with other comparable sources....

  10. 2 THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE ‘ANNALS OF TIGERNACH’ AND CHRONICUM SCOTORUM
    (pp. 45-66)

    Compared to the ‘Annals of Ulster’ and the ‘Annals of Loch Cé’, the Clonmacnoise-group texts known as the ‘Annals of Tigernach’ and Chronicum Scotorum present a greater task for the historian trying to reconstruct their texts in the tenth and eleventh centuries, because they differ considerably from each other. The main task is to determine what material came from their common source, and what was altered, added or lost. Only then can other issues, such as the sources of the common source and its relationship to the ‘Chronicle of Ireland’, be addressed.

    The main detailed study of the Clonmacnoise-group texts...

  11. 3 THE CLONMACNOISE GROUP 912–1100 AND ITS RELATIONSHIP WITH THE ‘CHRONICLE OF IRELAND’
    (pp. 67-90)

    In the preceding chapter it has been argued that AT and CS do not represent different chronicles in the eleventh century, but the sources of their common ancestor and how they relate to the section before 912 still remain to be determined. There have been three main theories concerning the Clonmacnoise-group text’s development in this period. The first (and most accepted) is that the ‘Chronicle of Ireland’ ended in 911 and was continued afterwards in Clonmacnoise.¹ The second, proposed by Gearóid Mac Niocaill, is that there were separate chronicles kept in Armagh and Clonard, rather than a ‘Chronicle of Ireland’,...

  12. 4 SHARED ITEMS IN THE ‘ANNALS OF ULSTER’ AND THE CLONMACNOISE GROUP, A.D. 912–1100
    (pp. 91-114)

    The preceding chapters have largely been concerned with determining the location of the chronicles underlying AU, AT and CS, and how the Clonmacnoise-group text may have been altered to create the versions which now exist. However, there is still a major textual issue about the chronicles in the tenth and eleventh centuries to be resolved: the existence of items from 912 to 1100 (particularly before about 1060) written with substantially the same vocabulary, phrases, and content in both AU and the Clonmacnoise group, which would not be expected in chronicles written completely independently (see appendix 2 for a list of...

  13. 5 THE RESTRUCTURING OF THE PAST IN THE ‘CHRONICLE OF IRELAND’
    (pp. 115-144)

    The previous four chapters have largely been concerned with the process of recording contemporary events in Irish chronicles, but it is clear that earlier sections of the annals, describing the distant past, were also a focus of Irish chroniclers’ activities. This chapter will concentrate on one major phase of change which took place in the common source of AU and the Clonmacnoise group which ended in A.D. 911. In this phase a number of texts from outside Ireland were used to provide items in the section from A.D. 431, when Palladius was sent to Ireland, to A.D. 720. These items...

  14. 6 THE CHRONOLOGY OF THE ‘CHRONICLE OF IRELAND’, 431–730
    (pp. 145-170)

    The genre of the chronicle is by definition based on a structure of time, describing events in the past, present and sometimes even the future in a linear fashion. In order to place events in time in relation to each other with any accuracy, chronicles need to contain a dating system. In annalistic Irish chronicles, the main structural element is the year, each of which begins with K., Kl., Kal. (usually with an abbreviation stroke) or Kal. Ianair, standing for the kalends (first) of January. Before the late seventh century, AT, CS, AI, and the H² additions to AU also...

  15. 7 THE ORIGINAL CHRONOLOGY OF THE IRISH CHRONICLES, ca 550–730
    (pp. 171-188)

    In the previous chapter the chronology of a stage before the ‘Chronicle of Ireland’ of 911 was reconstructed using the papal and imperial items. However, this does not necessarily represent the original chronology, because these items must have been included after 725, when Bede’s CM was written. This is much later than the period when contemporary recording can be identified in the Irish chronicles, so it is possible that kalends were already lost or added before the papal and imperial items were included.¹ The following discussion is an attempt to go back further and reconstruct the original chronology of this...

  16. 8 THE CLONMACNOISE-GROUP REDACTION OF MEDIEVAL HISTORY A.D. 431–730 IN THE TENTH AND ELEVENTH CENTURIES
    (pp. 189-224)

    One of the major issues facing the historian using the Irish chronicles is whether the abundant material found only in the Clonmacnoise group is valid as evidence for the period A.D. 431–730. An important first step in addressing this is to establish how this section of the chronicle developed in the Clonmacnoise-group texts after the common source ended in 911. The material for the period ca 490–766 found in AT, the most substantial Clonmacnoise-group source, but not in AU, has already been presented and discussed by David Dumville, who outlined many of the characteristics of this corpus of...

  17. CONCLUSION: CHRONICLING MEDIEVAL IRELAND
    (pp. 225-234)

    The main aim of this study was to accomplish some of the basic source work which would allow scholars to evaluate the annalistic evidence more effectively and would provide a springboard for future research on the Irish chronicles. The analysis has not been comprehensive; the later history of the Irish annals after 1100, as well as sections of the chronicles covering the ancient and medieval periods before 912 all deserve to be the foci of studies, and to receive more attention than was possible here. However, the foregoing chapters have helped to answer some of the main questions regarding the...

  18. APPENDIX 1 A CONCORDANCE OF A.D. 431–730 INCLUDING DATES AND A SUMMARY OF LOST AND ADDED KALENDS
    (pp. 235-243)
  19. APPENDIX 2 ITEMS SHARED BY AU AND AT OR CS WHICH ARE POSSIBLY- OR DEFINITELY-DERIVED FROM A SHARED SOURCE
    (pp. 244-246)
  20. APPENDIX 3 DIAGRAMS OF IDENTIFIED TEXTUAL RELATIONSHIPS, DEVELOPMENTS AND SOURCES
    (pp. 247-250)
  21. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 251-260)
  22. GENERAL INDEX
    (pp. 261-285)
  23. INDEX OF VOCABULARY AND PHRASES IN THE IRISH CHRONICLES
    (pp. 286-290)
  24. Back Matter
    (pp. 291-293)