May 8, 2013
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v2.1 Reference

Richer of Saint-Rémi

The Methods and Mentality of a Tenth-Century Historian

The History written by Richer of Saint-Rémi (ca. 950-1000) is one of the only contemporary narrative sources for the history of France in the tenth century, a tumultuous period in which the Carolingian and Capetian dynasties fought for control of the throne while Viking raiders inflicted chaos upon the realm, and ambitious nobles expanded their own power at the expense of the monarchy. Besides describing the battles, betrayals, and shifting allegiances that characterized tenth-century political culture, and providing accounts of the major ecclesiastical disputes of his day, Richer's history contains the only contemporary account of the life and career of Gerbert of Aurillac, the brilliant scholar and controversial prelate who served as master of the cathedral school of Rheims before being elected archbishop of Rheims, and later pope (as Sylvester II).

Building upon, but also moving beyond, previous scholarship that has focused on Richer's political allegiances and his views of kingship, this study by Justin Lake provides the most comprehensive synthesis of the History, examining Richer's use and abuse of his sources, his relationship to Gerbert, and the motives that led him to write. Not only are Richer's principal written sources all extant, but so is his autograph manuscript, giving readers an unrivaled window into the working methods of a tenth-century historian.

Lake situates Richer within the broader scholastic culture of the late tenth-century Latin West and explores the ways in which classical rhetoric, newly revived as a focus of instruction at Rheims by Gerbert, affected the way in which Richer wrote. In particular, he analyzes his use of the classical rhetorical doctrine of plausible narrative (narratio probabilis) in reworking his source material, his composition of speeches and dramatic scenes, and the way in which he used his history as a means of self-fashioning and self-memorialization.

About the Authors

Justin Lake is assistant professor of classics at Texas A&M University.


"Lake has written a fine book, for he is an excellent Latinist and student of tenth-century latin learning. His analysis of Richer's rhetorical techniques dramatically changes our understanding of the History and will enable historians to use Richer's accounts of events more judiciously... No one should think of using Richer as a source without reading this book."—The Historian

"The History of Richer of Reims is one of the rare treasures of a period for which we have relatively few narrative texts. Lake's work makes a significant contribution not merely to our understanding of Richer's history but also to the ways that scholars think about the intellectual culture of the tenth century and beyond."—Jason Glenn, associate professor of history, University of Southern California

"An original and thought-provoking work on medieval history-writing. Lake's analysis of
the way that Richer's intellectual formation and environment influenced his work provides
a necessary key to understanding the Historia. Beyond its illumination of Richer's work, the book's evocation of late tenth-century intellectual culture is clear and insightful."—Simon MacLean, University of St. Andrews

The Catholic University of America Press

9780813221250 : richer-of-saint-remi-lake-lake
336 Pages
$75.00 USD

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