Peterborough Chronicle

Peterborough Chronicle

Peterborough Abbey, Peterborough (United Kingdom) — 1120–1155

This manuscript of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is a unique historical and linguistic witness to the first 80 years of Norman rule in England

  1. A rare English history from the Battle of Hastings (1066) to the coronation of Henry II in 1154

  2. The Peterborough manuscript of the Chronicle is the first document with the pronoun “she”

  3. It is also rare document demonstrating the transition from Old English to Middle English

Peterborough Chronicle

  1. Description
  2. Facsimile Editions (1)
Peterborough Chronicle

The Peterborough Chronicle represents one of the most important and unique versions of the famous Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Originating from the 12th century, it offers a rare English historical account of the period beginning with the Norman Conquest in 1066 and ending with the coronation of King Henry II in 1154. What is more, the chronicle was created by at least two hands over the course of decades during a period of transition between Old English and Middle English and is filled with numerous linguistic advances including the earliest recorded use of the English feminine pronoun “she”.

Peterborough Chronicle

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is in fact a collection of chronicles written in Old English at various monasteries beginning in the 9th century, which were subsequently updated by succeeding generations. This manuscript known, as the Peterborough Chronicle represents an extremely rare history written in English between the Norman Conquest of 1066 and the later 14th century. Furthermore, it is a precious artifact of early Middle English documenting the transition from Old English in the text as the turbulent events of a generation unfold with each page. Adorned only by a few initials, this is nonetheless one of the most important works in the English manuscript tradition.

A Unique Witness to Norman England

English was replaced by Anglo-Norman French as the official vernacular in the wake of the Conquest and as such, the Peterborough Chronicle represents one of only a few first-hand accounts of the period from 1070 to 1145 to be written in English that survives today and was written from a monastic rather than a courtly perspective. It covers the period in which the Normans solidified their rule over England as well as the civil war known as The Anarchy (1135-53) and concludes in 1154 with the beginning of the long reign of King Henry II (1133-89). Both national events and local news from the area around Peterborough are recorded along with many important details from the everyday lives of commoners. The sympathy felt by the chroniclers for the common people is expressed in the fearful accounts of how the country is impoverished and ravished by civil war.

Innovations in the English Language

The text is initially written in Old English and the sections covering the period before 1122 consist of copies from other chronicles because of a fire at Peterborough Abbey in 1166 that destroyed the library. This manuscript becomes unique beginning after 1122 in a section referred to as the first continuation and continues to be written in Old English and covers the period up to 1131. The second continuation begins in 1132 and is mostly concerned with the events of the Anarchy, but the language of this grizzly account gradually transitions to Middle English by the end and thus contains numerous linguistic novelties. The most significant of these innovations is the feminine pronoun "she" (scæ), which is first recorded in this precious manuscript.

Journey of the Coveted Chronicles

The 12th century manuscript created at Peterborough Abbey likely stayed there until the dissolution of the monastery in the course of the Reformation. It came into the possession of William Cecil, Lord Burghleigh (1520-1598) sometime during the 16th century before passing to a certain William L'Isle. He in turn sold the manuscript in 1636 to William Laud (1573-1645) who was both Chancellor of Oxford University and Archbishop of Canterbury at the time. Laud donated the manuscript on June 28th, 1639 to the Bodleian library, where it has been carefully stored and studied ever since.


Alternative Titles
E Manuscript
Laud Manuscript
Size / Format
91 folios / 24.0 × 16.8 cm
Insular Minuscule
Decorative B-initial on fol. 1r; rubrication of dates and large majuscules
Copy of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle up to the year 1155 and the Anglo-Norman Chronicle up to the thirteenth century
Previous Owners
William Cecil
William Parker
William D'ilse
William Laud

Available facsimile editions:
Facsimile Editions

#1 The Peterborough Chronicle

Commentary: 1 volume by Dorothy Whitelock and Cecily Clark
Language: English
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
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