By Mary-Rose McLaren
The early fifteenth century witnessed the first attempt made by ordinary lay people - merchants, scriveners, craftsmen - to write their own history, in the so-called 'London chronicles', which have had a profound effect upon the growth and development of London. The earliest of the extant chronicles represents the first generation of historical writing to be undertaken in English since the Anglo-Saxon chronicle, and reflects an important shift in the movement from a primarily oral to a literate culture. However, despite their significance for evidence of this change, and as a secular and largely vernacular voice, much about the London chronicles remain a mystery. This study, the first for over 80 years, includes manuscripts unknown to Kingsford in his 1913 survey, studies them in relation to each other, and draws together what can be known about their origins, purpose and effect upon their audience. It also provides an annotated edition of the previously unpublished text of Bradford, West Yorkshire Archives, MS 32D86/42, while a selection of crucial events recorded in the chronicles -- such as the Rising of 1381 and Cade's Rebellion -- is presented in an appendix. MARY-ROSE McLAREN gained her Ph. D. from the University of Melbourne.
- Rochester, NY