Rhetoric and the writing of history, 400 –1500

This book provides an analytical overview of the vast range of historiography which was produced in western Europe over a thousand-year period between c.400 and c.1500. It focuses on the centrality of certain basic principles of rhetoric to the writing of history, and the relationship between the methodology of non-Christian and Christian historiography. The book first locates the writing of history in the Middle Ages at the confluence of three major historiographical traditions such as the classical, the biblical and the chronographic. Then, it introduces a fourth - rhetoric - and its contents are accordingly determined by the traditional division of rhetoric into its three fundamental categories: demonstrative or epideictic rhetoric; judicial or forensic rhetoric; and deliberative rhetoric. There is variation between each of these categories in terms of both approach and emphasis but all three of these forms of rhetoric still have fundamental elements in common. In particular, all three categories divide the subject-matter of a speech or text into five constituent elements: invention or inventio; arrangement or dispositio; style or elocutio; memory or memoria; and delivery or pronuntiatio. It is the first three of these five elements (inventio, dispositio and elocutio) which form the basis for defining the methodology of medieval historiography as a relationship between verisimilitude and truth. The book is intended to serve as a practical guide to some of the more important methodological principles which informed medieval historiography. It also provides a (necessarily) selective index to some of the more specialised modern commentary and scholarship.

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‘A magisterial, synthetic introduction to the subject, aimed principally at students and scholars new to the field and encompassing some 550 pages of elegantly written, exhaustively supported argumentation.'
Cam Grey, University of Pennsylvania
Rhetorica
June 2016

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