Janet L. Nelson
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Hincmar’s life in his historical writings
in Hincmar of Rheims
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Hincmar of Reims wrote a great deal, and often self-referentially. More is knowable about his life than about most other lives in the ninth century, in part because Hincmar inserted himself into his historical writing. But this paper’s focus is not biographical: its purpose is to contextualize and understand his historical writings, with biographical information used as a means to that end. ‘Historical writing(s)’ is an elastic term. Capitularies are usually classed as administrative, regulatory and strongly ideological texts, addressed ad hoc to particular contemporary problems; but in several cases, capitularies are historical writings as well and can be credited to Hincmar’s account. Several of Hincmar’s expert legal opinions, notably the De ecclesiis et capellis, and the De divortio, include rich historical content. Indisputably historical are the so-called Annals of St-Bertin, whose author from 861-882 was Hincmar. He himself called them Deeds of Kings, writing them up more or less contemporaneously; but he also made them a depository of highly personal opinions and autobiographical insights, sometimes adding retrospectively to earlier sections of the annals. Not despite but because of this, Hincmar’s historical writings are an exceptionally interesting source of information on his times.

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Hincmar of Rheims

Life and work

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