A study of Bede’s Historiae
Victoria A. Gunn
PhD Dissertation, University of Glasgow, 1999
This thesis examines the historia works of Bede in the light of the influence of genre and rhetoric on the construction of their narratives. To do this it reflects upon the importance of understanding and differentiating between Bede’s immediate monastic audience and the wider Anglo-Saxon one. It also proposes that the motivation behind Bede’s writing was multifaceted and included monastic competition as well as a desire to present Late Antique and Patristic models in a manner readily accessible to his Northumbrian compatriots.
To show the extent of influence of genre boundaries and rhetorical devices this thesis examines his well known historia texts, such as the Historia Ecclesiastica, as well as those which have received relatively less attention from historians, particularly the Historia Abbatum, the Chronica Maiora and the Martyrologium.
The thesis also illustrates the extent of the use of rhetorical devices and textual constructions through the discussion of two case studies. The first looks at Bede’s Northumbrian Saintly Kings; the second, at his Northumbrian Holy Women. The case studies indicate that historical accuracy was of secondary importance to Bede. Rather, they suggest that the dissemination of Christian convention (at the expense of historical accuracy) within an apparently Anglo-Saxon historical framework was Bede’s primary aim.