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William of Jumieges

Benedictine historian of the eleventh century

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William of Jumieges (surnamed CALCULUS), Benedictine historian of the eleventh century. Practically nothing seems to be known of his life except that he was apparently a Norman by birth and became a monk at the royal abbey of Jumieges, in Normandy, where he died about 1090. His only claim to fame consists in his “Historia Normannorum”, in eight books, which is the chief authority for the history of the Norman people from 851 to 1137. One of the earliest manuscripts of this work still extant was preserved at Rouen up to the Revolution and is now in the Bibliotheque Nationale at Paris. The first four books of the “Historia” were taken from an earlier work on the same subject, written by Dudon of St. Quentin, whose labors are praised by William. The verdict of more recent times, however, with regard to Dudon, is that he was given to romancing and that his work was not particularly reliable. Many of his exaggerations have been modified and corrected by William, who made full use of all that was trustworthy in his predecessor’s account. Only seven out of the eight books of the “Historia” are from William’s own hand, comprising events down tothe year 1087. The eighth book, continuing the history as far as the death of Boson, Abbot of Bee, which occurred in 1137, was added by an anonymous author, although his continuation is usually printed as an integral part of the complete work. Ordericus Vitalis drew largely from William’s history for the portions of his work that deal with the Normans, as did also Thomas Walsingham in his “Ypodigma neustriae” The “Historia Normannorum” was first edited and printed at Frankfort in 1603 and is also included in Camden’s collection of English and Norman historians. The style is considered passable for the age in which the writer lived, though it does not come up to the requirements of modern criticism.

G. CYPRIAN ALSTON


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