15th Century Sources Info


What are chronicles?

  • The main genre of historical writing in the medevil period so are important to historians. 
  • detailed and give continuous accounts of events in chronological order
  • They give us information about events and can also convey the historical, political and cultural attitudes of the writers and their audiences. 
  • Their aim was to relate what had happened and to educate people and to encourage people to do right and warn against doing wrong.
  • There are different types of chronicles
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Monastic Chronicles

  • Until the mid 15th century, monasteries were important parts of chronicles. 
  • Monks were literate; they could read and write and knew Latin and had access to the skills and equipment. They were well informed about national events because they were well placed in towns, received important visitors and some abbots attended parliaments
  • often keen to record the history of their monastery as well as of the major events of their own time
  • included government documents and newsletters in their chronicles.
  • By the mid-fifteenth century, however, the tradition of monastic chronicles had faded, so fewer monastic chronicles provide evidence for the period 1450-85
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  • form a large collection of historical writings
  • often closely connected with each other because writers borrowed material from each other or continued an earlier version
  • provide important evidence if they were produced close to the site of events they describe
  • particularly valuable as evidence for events in London
  • The town chronicles are also particularly valuable for the attitudes and opinions they convey
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Brut Chronicles

  • known as ‘Brut’ because they originally told the story of Brutus, the mythical founder of Britain, and the early history of the country
  • Many copies of Brut chronicles still exist, revealing their popularity in the fifteenth century
  • One feature is stories including omens such as drops of blood landing on washing as a sign of battles to come
  • This may lead us to think all chronicles say this kind of thing and so reveal a lot about medieval thinking but it’s a particular feature of this type of chronicle so may say more about this genre of a chronicle than about fifteenth-century thought in general
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  •  focus on a particular theme and set out to explain, not just describe events
  • . Several appear to have been written to provide official government versions of events to justify the actions of the government at the time
  • They contain considerable detail, often unknown from other sources, and were written by highly-educated officials were written to influence opinion at the time and so are not completely objective accounts of events.
  • were written to influence opinion at the time and so are not completely objective accounts of events.

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Guidance on the chronicles

  • The chroniclers of the fifteenth century provide essential details about events and people of the Wars of the Roses. Without them, we could not create a narrative of the major events of the period so it’s important not to underestimate their value.
  • there are pitfalls in using them which must be taken into account when assessing each source as evidence for a particular issue
  • Most chronicles were produced in the south of England, especially London
  • geographical distance from the north and the anti-northern prejudice in some southern chronicles means they tend to have little accurate information about the north
  • Almost all the chronicles writing about the period 1450-71 are pro-Yorkist because they were written after the accession of Edward IV in 1461. Chronicles written after 1485 are hostile to Richard III and written in favour of Henry VII. 
  • Few chroniclers saw battle sites for themselves, relying instead on reports of battles which were often incomplete or patchy.
  • authors of many chronicles are often unknown,
    not writing academic history as we think of it today. recording what interested them or to set out a particular viewpoint.
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What sort of other records, papers and letters are

  • many other kinds of sources, some of which survive in huge quantities and provide historians with a great deal of information about the careers of individuals, what lands they owned and what positions they held
  • allow us to create a much more detailed picture of events
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Government records

  • Chancery Patent Rolls and Close Rolls – literally rolls of information listing appointments made by the king, grants of land, the members of commissions appointed to deal with serious crimes, recruit soldiers for the king, etc. They tell us about the policies of kings, who benefited from royal patronage, which individuals were influential in each region and how that changed if the king changed.
  • Documents from the Exchequer- details about royal finances.
  • Law court records- details on legal cases
  • Parliament rolls- record the major issues discussed in Parliaments, including the statements made by the government to present its views. Little information has survived about detailed discussions or elections.
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Public information such as proclamations, manifest

  • Usually, such propaganda was used by opponents of whoever was in power but also includes government proclamations.

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