Peter of Tarentaise: A Biographical Study of the Twelfth Century

Lawrence Francis Barmann, Fordham University


INTRODUCTION Although all historical writing is not, of course, biographical writing, the converse of this statement, at least in the present day, would seem almost to be a falsehood. High quality modern biographical writing has achieved such success in leading to an understanding of historically significant figures and periods that many contemporary historians have concentrated in their published works on studies of a biographical nature rather than of the periodic sort. The justification for this relatively modern trend lies, perhaps, not so much in a revival of the great-man theory of history, as in the realization that the mind and activity of any age is known, really, only when the men who did the thinking and performed the deeds in that age are known. Hence, in the historical effort to lead to an understanding of the mind and deeds of the past, our generation has concentrated on the men of the past, the individuals who thought and acted in such a way as to Influence their contemporaries and, consequently, their posterity. Such an apology for the biographical efforts of the professional historian is readily acceptable, if the subjects of such biographical writings are men who stood well above their contemporaries, men who were leaders in every sense of that word. But if the apology for biography is valid, then even men of only local importance, men who won no battles, wrote no philosophy or literature, led no reform movement, nor established any new institutions, would also have their justifiable place in biographical literature, For though history may be, in part, moulded or channeled by a Caesar, a Charlemagne, or a Bonaparte, the lesser man, the man who typifies or leads a smaller group of his fellow men, even if the group be decidedly a minority group, leads to an understanding of the age in which he lived. In seeing him one comes to appreciate an age which could produce, mould, or be moulded in part by such a man. One gains some small sidelight on a complex pattern which, perhaps, is only seen eventually as a whole through the accumulation of many such side-lights.

Subject Area

European history|Religious history

Recommended Citation

Barmann, Lawrence Francis, "Peter of Tarentaise: A Biographical Study of the Twelfth Century" (1960). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI28673351.