"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The History of Eastern Christian Historical Writing

I'm looking forward to teaching a course next year on the uses and abuses of history, focusing on Christian-Muslim relations and the ever-misunderstood Crusades, which the lovely inhabitants of ISIS keep banging on about in their propaganda. So historiographical questions have come to preoccupy my attention and thinking more and more over the last few months. I am therefore especially interested in this recently released volume in multi-part series: Sarah Foot and Chase F. Robinson, eds., The Oxford History of Historical Writing: Volume 2: 400-1400 (Oxford UP, 2015), 672pp.

The volume has chapters on, inter alia, Coptic, Ethiopian, Syro-Arab, Syriac, Arab, and Byzantine histories. About this book the publisher further tells us:
How was history written in Europe and Asia between 400-1400? How was the past understood in religious, social and political terms? And in what ways does the diversity of historical writing in this period mask underlying commonalities in narrating the past? The volume, which assembles 28 contributions from leading historians, tackles these and other questions. Part I provides comprehensive overviews of the development of historical writing in societies that range from the Korean Peninsula to north-west Europe, which together highlight regional and cultural distinctiveness. Part II complements the first part by taking a thematic and comparative approach; it includes essays on genre, warfare, and religion (amongst others) which address common concerns of historians working in this liminal period before the globalizing forces of the early modern world.

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