A critical edition of the Crowland Chronicle

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis seeks first to reveal and then to study a hitherto-unnoticed chronicle written at the abbey of Crowland in Lincolnshire around the first quarter of the thirteenth century. Through a close examination of the manuscript record, it has been possible to reveal the existence of a sophisticated historical narrative which I have titled the Crowland Chronicle. Parts of the work (i.e. 1202-1225) have been known to historians as the 'Barnwell chronicle', but my research has shown that the so-called 'Barnwell annals' are part of a larger universal chronicle extending from Incarnation to 1225.
In the thirteenth century, the abbey of Crowland was known for its considerable hagiographical output, with abbot Henry de Longchamp (1190-1236) commissioning a number of works. In this thesis, I argue that the chronicle was begun around 1212 by Roger, monk of Crowland, working under the supervision of Abbot Henry. Roger was also the author of the revised collection of Lives of Becket known as the Quadrilogus. He compiled the Crowland chronicle during a time of enormous political transformations. Though the period from the Incarnation to 1211 is covered in short annalistic entries derived, grosso modo, from known sources, the annals for 1212-25 are of a different nature, much more substantial and analytic. The period covered by these annals saw the conflict between King John and the barons, Magna Carta and the challenges during the minority of Henry III. Roger's account of these years is perhaps the most perceptive of all contemporary narratives.
The thesis takes a comprehensive look at the way Roger constructed the past and observed the political and ecclesiastical developments around him. It emerges from my research that the abbey of Crowland was not only a centre of hagiographical writing, but of strong history writing as well. Roger proved a very shrewd observer as well as a dilligent compiler. He made use of a variety of sources, used Arabic numerals at a very early date and had his classical knowledge bear on his appreciation of contemporaneous events. The chronicle's computistical framework as well as a relative lack of local attachment ensured the chronicle's transmission and circulation, especially in East Anglia, at a time of intense monastic history writing.
Finally, this thesis contributes to our understanding of how monastic chronicles were assembled, how authors wove together different kinds of historical works for use in their breviate compilations and how they themselves understood the relationship between author (albeit anonymous) and work.
Date of Award2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorDavid Carpenter (Supervisor) & Alice Taylor (Supervisor)

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