Chronicle and community in northern Italy, 1270--1360

Laura Morreale, Fordham University


Vernacular urban chronicles first appeared in northern Italy in the late thirteenth century, and as a historical genre, evolved unevenly during the period between 1270 and 1360. After this time, a standardized model emerged that was then employed throughout the region for at least a century thereafter. Despite the status of the vernacular urban chronicle as a novel literary genre, current scholarship provides few opportunities to consider why the vernacular narrative style was introduced into local historiographic culture, or the consequences issuing from its acceptance as a mode of historical narrative. This study challenges current notions of urban chronicle writing in northern Italy by tracing the development of the vernacular chronicle genre in the region during the first ninety years of its existence, and considers why authors of this period adopted a new style of history writing to tell the story of their native towns. ^ The study examines twenty vernacular histories from seven towns in northern Italy, including Venice, Florence, Pisa, Lucca, Perugia, Pistoia, and San Gimignano. Because the vernacular urban chronicle was a new literary genre that lacked an established tradition, authors from these towns were free to tailor their historiographic messages according to their own political agendas and the literary tools at their disposal. This study works to establish a correlation between the author's literary choices and the setting in which each work was created. The political backdrop for each history's creation is therefore paired with the literary traditions available to the author at the time the work was composed. ^ The study reveals that the contemporary political circumstances in northern Italy, including the atmosphere of constant conflict between Guelfs and Ghibellines in Tuscany, the interference of the French in northern Italian life, and the contest between rival aristocratic forces in Venice, all had an impact on which language an author chose to create his work of urban history. The competing vernacular literary trends of the time, including mercantile, romance, and notarial writing styles, had their own generic norms that authors adopted or rejected according to their political perspectives, historiographic needs, or potential audiences. ^

Subject Area

Literature, Medieval|Literature, Romance|History, Medieval

Recommended Citation

Morreale, Laura, "Chronicle and community in northern Italy, 1270--1360" (2004). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3125021.