c6-charlemagne3Charlemagne of France and Alfred of England both established palace schools to teach reading and writing and to preserve old manuscripts.  Charlemagne’s school developed the Caroline minuscule writing which only used uppercase letters as the beginning of each sentence and put spaces between words.  New kinds of history flourished during the Carolingian era.

Hagiographies and biographies became popular.  Hagiographies were written about the lives of the saints in order to inspire people to live like that saint.  These stories are still important today because they tell what people valued during the medieval era.  Biographies were critical because the whole feudal system was based on human involvement and contractual relationships.  The crusades gave writers opportunities to tell the stories of great men.  Accompanying biographies, songs of great deeds (chanson de geste) also became popular, and each song was typically based on fact.

Urban chronicles and annals formed the basis for future histories.  Urban chronicles were city records from England, Germany, and Italy.  The chronicles were simply a recording of events that had occurred and they were based on different dates since each country used a different calendar.  Annals were kept in monasteries and were based on the date of Easter.  They were written by unknown monks but told about events that occurred around each monastery.  Annals appeared in France and England.

The history of individual states slowly developed as the Carolingian era drew to a close.  Some historians thought these histories were unreliable, but although they are different, they have been proven accurate.  Henry of Huntington’s History of the English is the best individual history, and Henry believed that the key to predicting the future was understanding the past.  Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People is also a fascinating work, because without this book historians would have no manuscript knowledge of the two hundred years of English history that Bede wrote about.

– Hannah S. Bowers

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