This book presents a translation of the Annals of St-Bertin (AB). The AB give a detailed record of events in the Carolingian world, covering the years 830-882. They constitute the most substantial piece of contemporary historical writing of their time, a time that was a critical one in western European history. The AB contain uniquely extensive information about Viking activities, constructive as well as destructive, and also about the variety of responses to those activities. Produced in the 830s in the imperial palace of Louis the Pious, the AB were continued away from the Court, first by Bishop Prudentius of Troyes, then by the great scholar-politician Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims. The AB have little information for the year 840 after the death of Louis the Pious, and something like the earlier density of reporting is resumed only with the battle of Fontenoy. From 841 on, the AB were based in the western part of the old empire, in what became, with the Treaty of Verdun in 843, the kingdom of Charles the Bald. Thus the division of Verdun is, again, faithfully reflected in the AB's record. From time to time, information was received from Lothar's Middle Kingdom, and from Louis the German's East Frankish kingdom; but the AB's main focus after 843 was on events in the West and on the doings of Charles the Bald.
This chapter provides The Annals of St-Bertin in full, translated and annotated by Janet L. Nelson.
1. The importance of the text The Annals of St-Bertin give a detailed record of events in the Carolingian world, covering the years 830-82. They constitute the most substantial piece of contemporary historical writing of their time 1 – a time that was, on any reckoning, a critical one in western European history. As on most major issues, modern
council, and, despite earlier sympathy for Gottschalk, he went along with the official line, which was Hincmar’s line. Thereafter, Prudentius increasingly distanced himself from the king: a fact that emerges clearly from the critical remarks about Charles in a continuation of the Royal Frankish Annals , the so-called Annals of St-Bertin , written by Prudentius, first as a palace cleric, then as bishop of Troyes, between 835 and 861. Hincmar, after the 849 council, wrote a short diocesan letter, known now as Ad reclusos et simplices
Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims (d. 882) is a crucial figure for all those
interested in early medieval European history in general, and Carolingian
history in particular. As the powerful Archbishop of Rheims, Hincmar shaped the
times in which he lived, advising and admonishing kings, playing a leading role
in the Frankish church, and intervening in a range of political and doctrinal
disputes. But Hincmar also shaped how those times would later be seen by
historians up to the present day, by writing historical accounts such as the
Annals of St-Bertin, and by carefully preserving dossiers of material for
This book puts the archbishop himself centre-stage, bringing together the latest international research across the spectrum of his varied activities, as history-writer, estate administrator, hagiographer, pastorally-engaged bishop, and politically-minded royal advisor. For the first time since Jean Devisse’s magisterial studies in the 1970s, it offers a three-dimensional examination of a controversial figure whose actions and writings in different fields are often studied in isolation, at the cost of a more integrated appreciation. Combining research from recognised experts as well as early-career historians, it will be an essential companion for all those interested in the early medieval Frankish world, and in the history of early medieval Europe more broadly.
The Annals of St-Bertin We also have, however, a historiographical account of the case, because Hincmar of Rheims dealt with it in his Annals of St-Bertin over several years, and it is on this account that I want to concentrate. 23 As well as the case of his nephew, Hincmar presented three other cases of a bishop’s deposition in which he was personally involved: Rothad of Soissons, Gunther of Cologne and Theutgaud of Trier. 24 I want to ask what part the public and private work of Hincmar of Rheims’ historiographical writing played in
events. In this respect they are the equivalent of the companion text translated in this series, the Annals of St-Bertin , which play a similar role for the history of the west Frankish kingdom. The Annals of St-Bertin have a comparatively straightforward make-up: they are a continuation of the Royal Frankish Annals by two identifiable authors, Prudentius of Troyes and Hincmar of Rheims, about whom a good deal is otherwise
author of the Annals of St. Bertin (at this point probably Prudentius): ‘there was a general slaughter of those fleeing ( palantium caedes passim agitabatur )’. 23 The Fulda annalist made a similar point about the battle between Louis ‘the Younger’ and Charles the Bald at Andernach in 876. When Charles’s army fled, ‘Louis pursued them and dealt out considerable slaughter.’ 24
Annals of St-Bertin s.a. 859. J. L. Nelson (trans.), The Annals of St-Bertin. Ninth-century Histories. Vol. 1 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1991). 13 Halsall, Warfare and society , p. 100 14 Edict of Pîtres , 26. A. Boretius and V
translation of and commentary on the Annals of St Bertin (1991). One result has also been an ongoing discussion about the possibility of writing early medieval biography. This is preparatory to a major study on the figure of Charlemagne, prefigured in a 2005 paper ‘Charlemagne the man’. Biography, in Janet Nelson’s conception, goes to the very root of historical enquiry: can we ‘know’ people in the distant