The Present and the Past in Medieval Irish Chronicles

The Present and the Past in Medieval Irish Chronicles

Nicholas Evans


Boydell Press



A new analysis of a vital source for the history of Ireland and Scotland in the middle ages.
Ireland has the most substantial corpus of annalistic chronicles for the early period in western Europe. They are crucial sources for understanding the Gaelic world of Ireland and Scotland, and offer insights into contacts with the wider Christian world. However, there is still a high degree of uncertainty about their development, production, and location prior to 1100, which makes it difficult to draw sound conclusions from them.
This book analyses the principal Irish chronicles, especially the "Annals of Ulster", "Annals of Tigernach", and the Chronicum Scotorum, identifying their inter-relationships, the main changes to the texts, and the centres where they were written in the tenth and eleventh centuries - a significant but neglected period. The detailed study enables the author to argue that the chroniclers were in contact with each other, exchanging written notices of events, and that therefore the chronicle texts reflect the social connections of the Irish ecclesiastical and secular elites. The author also considers how the sections describing the early Christian period (approximately 431 to 730 AD) were altered by subsequent chroniclers; by focussing on the inclusion of material on Mediterranean events as well as on Gaelic kings, and by comparing the chronicles with other contemporary texts, he reconstructs the chronicles' contents and chronology at different times, showing how the accounts were altered to reflect and promote certain views of history. Thus, while enabling readers to evaluate the sources more effectively, he also demonstrates that the chronicles were sophisticated and significant documents in themselves, reflecting different facets of contemporary medieval society and their shifting attitudes to creating and changing accounts of the past.

Dr Nicholas Evans is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Glasgow.


June 2010
2 line illustrations
308 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Studies in Celtic History
ISBN: 9781843835493
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Boydell Press
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Table of Contents

The 'Annals of Ulster', 912-1100
The characteristics of the 'Annals of Tigernach' and Chromium Scotorum
The Clonmacnoise Group 912-1100 and its relationship with the 'Chronicle of Ireland'
Shared items in AU and the Clonmacnoise-group, AD 912-1100
The restructuring of the past in the 'Chronicle of Ireland'
The chronology of the 'Chronicle of Ireland', 431-730
The original chronology of the Irish chronicles, circa 550-730
The Clonmacnoise-group redaction of medieval history AD 431-730 in the tenth and eleventh centuries
Conclusion: Chronicling Medieval Ireland


For those who work with annals in more detail - and that is just about every historian of early medieval Ireland and Scotland - the very last they are obliged to do is read and consider Evans's conclusions. THE INNES REVIEW

Written in a lucid and readable style, with the often complex evidence presented in an exceptionally clear and orderly manner. (...)The edition by Boydell is of the very high standard we have come to expect from this publisher, and both publisher and author are to be congratulated on a volume that should be a model and inspiration for future scholars working on the early medieval insular chronicles. EARLY MEDIEVAL EUROPE

A publication of great significance.SPECULUM

Deserves the gratitude of all those scholars who believe in the hypothesis of a "Chronicle of Ireland" for bringing so much energy and industry to its defence and development. THE MEDIEVAL REVIEW

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