Wide Angles and Zoom Lenses
When people think of medieval history, they might think of legends about saints (see Great Lessons from "Bad" History, page 22) or entries such as these from the Annals of St. Gall:
710. Hard year and deficient in crops.
712. Great flood.
714. Pippin, Mayor of Palace, died.
718. Charles Martel devastated Saxony with great destruction.
Contrast those sparse lines with this passage from medieval chronicler Ordericus Vitalis:
"When [William the Conqueror's son] Robert heard about this he was terrified. Seeing disasters all around him, he was brought low and forced to beg for mercy from the unconquered king [Henry I]. The stern king, however, remembering all the wrongs Robert had committed, resolved to hunt him down with a huge army, and press the attack until he recognized that he was beaten and submitted entirely to the king's judgment.
"Robert, driven to despair by his wretched fate, took the advice of friends and went out to meet the king as he approached the town, confessed his treason, and handed over the keys of the town to the conqueror. The king confiscated Robert's whole honor [royally granted lands] as well as the estates of the vassals who had stood by him in his rebellion, but allowed him to leave unharmed with his horses and arms, and granted him a safe-conduct through England to the sea-coast.
"All England rejoiced as the cruel tyrant went into exile, and many, fawning on the king, congratulated him saying, 'Rejoice, King Henry, give thanks to the Lord God, for you have begun to rule freely now that you have conquered Robert of Bellême and driven him out of your kingdom.'"
Medieval chronicles drew upon several sets of annals, plus oral traditions, to compose a comprehensive account. Many chronicles even begin with ...