Peterborough Chronicle


Peterborough Chronicle
   The Peterborough Chronicle is the most recent and the longest sustained of the seven extant manu-scripts of the ANGLO-SAXON CHRONICLE. Each manuscript of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records the “common stock”—the original account of the history of Britain from 60 B.C.E. until the reign of King ALFRED THE GREAT in 891. That original manuscript was apparently copied at Winchester and sent throughout England to important centers of regional culture, where local scribes received regular updates from the capital, but also began recording events of local interest, so that after about 915 the several manuscripts begin to diverge significantly. What scholars refer to as “Manuscript E” of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (catalogued in Oxford’s Bodleian Library as MS. Laud 636) is also called the Peterborough Chronicle, after the monastery in which the text was copied and maintained up until 1154, when its last entry records the death of King Stephen. No other manuscript of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is maintained after the year 1080. Scholars have conjectured that the extant manuscript was a copy made after a fire destroyed the original manuscript kept at Peterborough in 1116. The scribe that copied the manuscript to that point continued making entries in the Chronicle until 1131, after which a second scribe took over the task until the final entry in 1154.
   This later part of the Chronicle contains a number of memorable entries. Particularly poignant is the entry for 1083, describing the slaughter of the monks at Glastonbury. The entry for 1087, containing a biography of William the Conqueror, is the longest entry in any part of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. But the most famous section of the Peterborough Chronicle is that containing the entries for 1135–54, describing the civil wars and brutality during the disastrous reign of King Stephen.Most notable is the entry for 1137, which describes the robbing and burning of villages and of churches, the destruction of fields resulting in starvation, and the reduction of once-thriving people to begging or to emigration. The chronicler asserts that these things went on for the entire 19 years of Stephen’s reign, and became progressively worse. In addition to its historical interest, the Peterborough Chronicle is a valuable text for linguists. Since it covers the period from before the Norman Conquest (1066) to almost 100 years later, the Chronicle is a written record of the transition of English from the OLD ENGLISH period into the early MIDDLE ENGLISH.
   Bibliography
   ■ Clark, Cecily, ed. The Peterborough Chronicle 10701154. 2nd ed. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1970.
   ■ Rositzke,Harry A., trans. The Peterborough Chronicle. New York: Columbia University Press, 1951.
   ■ Whitelock, Dorothy, ed. The Peterborough Chronicle. Copenhagen: Rosenkilde and Bagger, 1954.

Encyclopedia of medieval literature. 2013.

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