History of the Archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen

History of the Archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen

History of the Archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen

History of the Archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen

Synopsis

Adam of Bremen's history of the See of Hamburg and of Christian missions in northern Europe from A. D. 788 to 1072 is the primary source of our knowledge concerning the history, geography, and ethnography of the Baltic region and its peoples before the thirteenth century. Arriving in Bremen in 1066 and soon falling under the tutelage of Archbishop Adalbert, who figures prominently in the narrative, Adam was in the vanguard of the campaign to convert Slavic and Scandinavian peoples to Christianity. His History vividly reflects the firsthand accounts he received from travelers, traders, and missionaries on the hinterlands of medieval Europe.

Excerpt

Timothy Reuter

Francis Tschan's translation of Adam of Bremen's History of the Arch bishops of Hamburg-Bremen was published at a time when studies of Adam were about to experience a renaissance. Adam's key position as the author of one of the earliest written sources for early Scandinavian history had by 1959 already been established for two generations, following the source-critical studies of the Weibulls in the early decades of the twentieth century, and it has been further reinforced by more recent work. Even if Adam's view of the ninth and tenth centuries must also be treated with some scepticism, his importance as a writer, a biographer, and a church historian, as well as an ethnographer, now seems far more significant than it did in 1959. At the same time, our understanding of the complex thought patterns and working habits of medieval historians has also grown, and historians are now even more cautious than they were about reading texts as unmediated accounts of a past reality. Though Adam was exceptionally well informed—not least through conversations with King Sven Estridsen of Denmark—about Scandinavian history and contemporary Scandinavian politics, and his testimony about them is invaluable, he was nevertheless writing in the genre of the gesta episcoporum, or deeds of bishops: his primary interests were the greatness of his archbishopric—its claims to primacy over the Scan-

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