The Authorship of the London Chronicles
Although it would appear that sometime in the fifteenth century hundreds of London chronicles were written, we do not know who they were written by, or with what purpose. Every extant manuscript of a fifteenth-century London chronicle is anonymous. Clearly this is not an accident, but tells us something of the nature of the chronicles themselves. In order to understand the social and literary phenomenon implicit in the existence of these texts, however, it is helpful to us as modern readers to have some idea of who their authors may have been. We can then put the anonymous nature of the chronicles side by side with their probable social context to determine their perceived significance to their authors, sources and readers. Where, for example, did the London chronicles originate? Why did they become so popular, and was their popularity restricted to a single class or group within London society? Furthermore, any discussion of the construction of the London chronicles, their antecedents, authors and readers must be incomplete without an examination of the chroniclers' sources. Within this context we must also consider the nature of authorship itself. When, for example, is a compiler an author? What, if any, was the fifteenth-century understanding of 'authorship' in relation to the London chronicles?
In order to construct a picture of how and why these chronicles were written we need a sense of what information was accessible to the chroniclers and what choices the chroniclers were making when they favoured one account over another. This chapter looks at what we can glean from the London chronicles concerning their authorship, audience and sources. In turn, we can consider what picture of London might begin to emerge from this.
The London chronicles did not simply appear from nowhere. There are several extant antecedents to them which give us insight into the chronicles as a body of materials and a sense of their possible development. In an attempt to reach a better understanding of the authorship and ownership of these texts, it is necessary to consider briefly their possible development as a type.
The first document which might be termed a London chronicle is in the Liber de Antiquis Legibus, written in 1274 with a continuation written