What a trip! I arrived at Heathrow on the morning of the 5th, making the bus just in time to drop my things at Jesus College
Room with a View
and sit down for the first panel of Oxford and Cambridge International Chronicles Symposium (OCICS).  I was only there for two nights, but the trip was well worth the travel.
About eighty scholars had gathered to share interdisciplinary, and just as importantly, global perspectives on Medieval and Renaissance chronicles. I attended first “Shaping the Past in Twelfth-Century Chronicles” and heard papers on a Danish ruler of England being depicted as a humble pilgrim instead of powerful (and foreign) king, images in John of Worcester’s Chronicle creating “a new scientific history while upholding older monastic conventions,” and William of Malmesbury’s interventions in his sources as attempts to “restore the English and their conquerors.”

Henry I’s dream, John of Worcester (wikipedia commons)

All three presenters ended up speaking about the transmission and transmutations of their texts and the texts’ sources. They all seemed to create matrices of comparison: one author changed this to that for reason a; another changed that to this for reason b, etc. They were all quite interesting but almost laden with evidentiary data, and I began to wonder how much time the authors might have saved if they had a program to help them count and track the changes they discussed. It seems like my map project really will have other applications! 

And yet, I was shocked to see no digital projects. I saw pie graphs and flow charts from historians and literary scholars alike, but none questioned the methodology of counting the words, themes, or images they were tracking. When I shared my surprise to this during breaks, the general consensus was that this was a symposium on chronicles, not digital humanities; there are separate conferences for that. 
At this point in my post I should explain what chronicles are; this is, after all, a blog for all readers. But if I learned anything from this conference, it’s that chronicles are much harder to define than I expected. Basically, they are early histories. They can be arranged thematically, around the church for example, or chronologically, like most annals. 
But history, to medievals at least, was a much broader field than it is now. 
Presentations on Matthew of Paris, a manuscript belonging to the Norwich prior Simon Bozoun, and instructors to the illustrator of Lambeth Palace Library MS 6 showed just how rich the medieval understanding of history is. Matthew Paris collected, collated, and created genealogical trees, astrological tables, computational calendars, natural science treatises, and even drew an elephant from life:
“Drawn from life” is a very, very rare notation in the Middle Ages (Parker Library)
According to Judith Collard, the images and texts of Matthew of Paris have been studied too often as distinct from one another and without the context he provided them. She convincingly argued that more scholars, like Matthew himself, especially look to the science in his manuscripts as incorporations to, not exceptions in, his works.
Sam Rostad, now a history PhD student at Notre Dame, had a great opportunity when his supervisor at Cambridge recommended he look into a manuscript belonging to the prior of 14th century Norwich. This particular book begins with Higden’s Polychronicon– a history of everything. 
From one version of Higden’s Polychronicon (British Library)
The eight works that follow range from historical prefaces to Marco Polo’s travels, from History of the East to a commentary on St Augustine.  Yet at closer inspection, this textual gathering is not a miscellany. Bringing together global and regional histories with travel narratives and commentary dedicated more to ancient cultures than to navigation or theology, Bozoun really created a historiography. 
Just as the first panel had mined specific, textual differences among chronicles and their sources, this one examined larger, thematic similarities among different genres of history. Fascinating, no?
This is perhaps a longer, or at least denser, post than usual, so I’ll cut it here. Stay tuned for my adventures in an 11th-c church and an update on Peterborough Chronicle scholarship!
Until soon, wishing everyone a week free from jet-lag.