The Winchcombe and Coventry Chronicles. Hitherto Unnoticed Witnesses to the Work of John of Wbrcester: Vol. 1: Introduction and Commentary; Vol. 2: Texts and Translations. Edited and translated by Paul Antony Hayward. [Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, Vol. 373] (Tempe: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Arizona State University. 2010. Pp. xxxiv, 353; iii, 354-750. $140.00. ISBN 978-0-866-98421-8.)
The significance of the annals edited and translated by Paul Antony Hayward is minor from an historical point of view but rather greater from a historiographical one. Thus, although they add little to our knowledge of events in England during the twelfth century, they are potentially more revealing about the practice of writing history then. It is this latter aspect that justifies the expansive presentation of them here- a two-volume set with a combined total of 750 pages, the entirety of the first volume being devoted to introduction (nearly 200 pages) and commentary (some 150 pages).
The principal concern of the commentary is to note sources and analogues for individual entries in the chronicles; and, although these occasionally include charters or privileges (notably sub anno 811, the dedication of Winchcombe church; pp. 251-70), they are principally other chronicles and annals. The scattered evidence thus furnished is drawn together in the substantial introduction that highlights the facts that the Winchcombe and the Coventry Annals share a common stock for their entries to 1122, and that more than 90 percent of this shared material is also to be found in the Chronica chronicarum of John of Worcester. From this it is deduced: first, that the Winchcombe and Coventry Annals and John's depended on the same source; and second (more daringly) that since the lost source shared "affinities of method, purpose and outlook with the known works of John of Worcester" (p. 97), it was probably also his work.
The motive imputed to John for the hypothetical text was "to reach out to a new and different audience from that which was likely to use Chronica chronicarum or Chronicula" (p. 97), a proposition that rests on, and supports, Hayward's analysis of the functions of annals more generally (chapter 1). Rather than representing a more primitive form of history writing than chronicles, they met a different need, here identified as pedagogical- annalistic world chronicles, it is argued, were teaching tools (pp. …