chapter  III
3 Pages

III.5 Histories, chronicles and memoirs


In late medieval and early modern Europe an increasingly heterogeneous group of people wrote accounts of their own time. Mostly men but some women as well, religious and lay, people belonging to the urban middle class, learned academics as well as the rural gentry, clerks and schoolmasters, soldiers and craftsmen, all felt a need to keep records of the events they witnessed and remembered. German town archives, even those of small towns, sometimes keep tens, even hundreds, of manuscript chronicles from the early modern period. Although many of them have been published in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, many more remain unpublished.1 By their selection of topics chronicles reveal what contemporaries thought worthwhile to record and remember. Chronicles describe the events and circumstances that impacted their lives, that evoked anger, worry or sorrow, but also wonder and joy. The act of chronicling itself can be seen as an act of concern. Quite often the concerns are about disruption, disorder and discontinuity in the existence of local communities.