The Narrators of Barbarian History: Jordanes, Gregory of Tours, Bede, and Paul the Deacon / Edition 1

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In this substantial work Walter Goffart treats the four writers who provide the principal narrative sources for our early knowledge of the Ostrogoths, Franks, Anglo-Saxons, and Lombards: Jordanes, Gregory of Tours, Bede, and Paul the Deacon. The University of Notre Dame Press is pleased to make this book available for the first time in paperback.
“The title Narrators of Barbarian History speaks to a modern audience in the terms with which it is familiar, but it should not be understood to mean that the authors in question wrote a type of history sharply contrasting in subject to that practiced in earlier centuries. That Jordanes and his peers were concerned with Goths and other ‘barbarians,’ though not an incidental detail, is not the main reason for studying them. The Constantinopolitan perspective of Jordanes overshadows his Gothic theme. Gregory of Tours was primarily concerned with current events rather than with the Franks, and he was intent on portraying the depravity of all men rather than of a subgroup among them. Bede was Northumbrian rather than English and cared more about the Christian face of his compatriots than about their ethnic peculiarities. Paul waited so long to write about his fellow Lombards, applying his pen to other subjects, that he left their history unfinished. Our four authors are less compelling for occasionally addressing themselves to the peoples whom we call Germanic barbarians than they are for being the leading practitioners of narrative history in Latin within the two hundred fifty years that separate Justinian, for whom Jordanes may have worked, from Charlemagne, at whose court Paul the Deacon briefly sojourned.” — from the original introduction

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This book will be extremely valuable for those wishing to understand any of its four narrators. In addition to its exciting approach, it is a masterpiece of scholarship, magnificently and precisely noted." —Speculum

"The Narrators of Barbarian History should become essential reading for all early medievalists." —History

" . . . A work of considerable importance. [Goffart's] insistence that these Dark Age historians were literary figures, who had specific goals in mind, and moulded their narratives to suit their ends, is crucial. So too is the notion that the works by these historians, and not the information they contain, are our real incontrovertible 'facts.' . . . His thesis ought radically to transform our approach to the early middle ages." —Canadian Journal of History

". . . A work which will both provoke much discussion of its central ideas and be widely consulted as a standard source of reference for the writers with whom it deals." —Church History

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780268029678
  • Publisher: University of Notre Dame Press
  • Publication date: 11/28/2005
  • Series: ND Publications Medieval Studies Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 536
  • Product dimensions: 6.13 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

WALTER GOFFART is professor emeritus of history at the University of Toronto and Senior Research Scholar and Lecturer in History at Yale University.

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