Froissart, Chronicler of Chivalry

Kenneth Fowler looks at the genius of the 14th-century French courtier and chronicler and how he captured the spirit of his age in a sophisticated and complex narrative.

Few writers have left to posterity so powerful and comprehensive a picture of their own times as Jean Froissart, and this despite his extensive historical inaccuracies and, from the standpoint of modern historical scholarship, his abjectly inadequate methodology. Froissart's output was prodigious, and the fruits of a lifetime's observation and inquiry. It was not until the ten years after 1390, when he was in his late fifties and early sixties, that the four books of his Chronicles, which cover the European scene from 1326 to 1400 (and of which the first book went through three separate revisions and the second and third two), were completed and achieved their final form. Yet he had begun to collect material shortly after the battle of Poitiers, when he was in his early twenties. As early as 1381, when an earlier redaction of his Chronicles destined for the king of England was seized by the French authorities, he had acquired an international reputation as a historian.

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