Rhetoric and the Writing of History, 400–1500

By Matthew Kempshall

Rhetoric and the Writing of History, 400–1500


  • Hardcover
  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-7031-0
  • Pages: 640
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £19.99
  • Published Date: December 2012
  • BIC Category: History, History & Archaeology, Historiography, European history: medieval period, middle ages, CE period up to c 1500, HISTORY / Medieval, Humanities / Medieval history, Humanities / Historiography
  • Series: Historical Approaches


This book provides an analytical overview of the vast range of historiography which was produced in western Europe over a thousand-year period between c.400 and c.1500. Concentrating on the general principles of classical rhetoric central to the language of this writing, alongside the more familiar traditions of ancient history, biblical exegesis and patristic theology, this survey introduces the conceptual sophistication and semantic rigour with which medieval authors could approach their narratives of past and present events, and the diversity of ends to which this history could then be put. By providing a close reading of some of the historians who put these linguistic principles and strategies into practice (from Augustine and Orosius through Otto of Freising and William of Malmesbury to Machiavelli and Guicciardini), it traces and questions some of the key methodological changes that characterise the function and purpose of the western historiographical tradition in this formative period of its development.


A dense, meticulously researched "handbook" that is designed to guide students through the methodological thickets connecting medieval historiography and rhetoric.
S. Morillo, Wabash College, CHOICE, 01/04/2012

This is a very substantial work of scholarship, by an author who is absolutely on top of his material despite its bulk, and of the vast historiography on it, and who also offers a wealth of original insights, inspiring students to analyse source-texts critically for themselves.
History Workshop Journal 74 (1) Autumn 2012

'Important, exciting and stimulating ... comprehensive, lucid, and extraordinarily wide-ranging.'
B. Weiler, English Historical Review, July 2013

This substantial book is likely to become a major work on history, historiography, and rhetoric during the medieval period.

'A magisterial, synthetic introduction to the subject, aimed principally at students and scholars new to the field and encompassing some 550 pages of elegantly written, exhaustively supported argumentation.'
Cam Grey, University of Pennsylvania, Rhetorica, July 2016


Matthew Kempshall is Fellow and Tutor in History at Wadham College, University of Oxford.


1. History and Historiography
2. Rhetoric and History
3. Invention and Narrative
4. Verisimilitude and Truth
5. Historiography and History

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