Chambers 21st Century Dictionary
Record of events in order of time, without any interpretation. In the development of literary genres, it predates true history, which involves the analysis of facts and how they relate to one another. Well-known examples are the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which is written in Old English and continues to the end of the 12th century, Geoffrey of Monmouth'sHistoria Regum Britanniae, c. 1139, and Matthew Paris'sChronica Majora from the 13th century.
Early chronicles Chronicles date from Greek and Roman times. Gildas wrote De Excidio Britanniae/On the Destruction of Britain, beginning with the Romans and ending at 516. In turn, his work was used by Bede, to compile his work Ecclesiastical History, which recounted events as late as 731. Much later, Florence of Worcester produced a Chronicon ex Chronicis, which, as its name indicates, is a compendium of the work of earlier annalists.
11th and 12 centuries The high Middle Ages saw a flourishing of the chronicle form. Eadmer wrote Historia Novorum in Anglia, an account of his own times, while Ordericus Vitalis (1075–1143)'s Historia Ecclesiastica, presented a church history in 13 books, from the beginning of the Christian era to 1141. William of Malmesbury filled the gap between Bede and Eadmer with his De Gestis Regum Anglorum/On the Deeds of English Kings, telling of events from 449 to 1127; later he continued his account to 1142. One of the most renowned of medieval chroniclers was Geoffrey of Monmouth, who related the history of pre-Christian and early Christian times in a wealth of stories (highly picturesque yet factually unreliable), and also recounted the legends of Brutus the Trojan, Lear and Cymbeline, Merlin and Arthur. Geoffrey's work was severely criticized by William of Newburgh, whose accounts cover the rule of Stephen and Henry II.
13th and 14th centuries Greatest of the 13th-century chroniclers were Roger of Wendover and Matthew Paris. The former's Flores Historiarum was continued up to 1259 by the latter's Chronica Majora. In the following century, Ranulf Higden compiled Polychronicon, a universal chronicle from the earliest times to his own day.
15th and 16th centuries Perhaps the most famous of Renaissance chronicles is Andrew of Wyntoun's The Original Chronicle, a metrical history of Scotland up to the accession of James I in 1567. The Anglica Historia of Polydore Vergil is an invaluable account of the reign of Henry VIII. By this time, chronicles were written in the vernacular rather than in Latin. Edward Hall recounted the union of the two noble families of Lancaster and York, and also offered an account of Henry VIII's reign. The work of Hall and that of many other chroniclers was drawn upon by Raphael Holinshed in composing his great work Chronicles, which was extremely popular in both its first (1577) and second (1587) editions. Holinshed's book was a compendium of chronicle material and encyclopaedic information about the British Isles, incorporating, for example, William Harrison's Description of England to form a major portion of one volume. It is the first great account of British life and history, and is thought to have provided much source material for Shakespeare's dramas. Other chronicles of this period include the works of John Stowe and John Speed. Both were industrious antiquarians; the former was best known for his Survey of London, the latter for his maps of English counties. With William Camden, the chronicle reached its zenith; though he chose to write his Rerum Anglicarum et Hibernicarum Annales in Latin, it soon appeared in English translation. With the growth of historical scholarship, the chronicle was superseded by the history. See also history.