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There's a pretty good chance that you're already familiar with the idea of chronicles. For example, you might have heard of:

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There's a pretty good chance that you're already familiar with the idea of chronicles. For example, you might have heard of:

  • The Chronicles of Narnia (1950-1956) by C. S. Lewis
  • The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955) by J. R. R. Tolkien
  • A Song of Ice and Fire (1996-Present) by George R. R. Martin

These series of books are examples of chronicles. However, chronicles aren't always fantasy and fiction.

Chronicles can come from anywhere in the real world, and they can tell the stories of real people. We'll cover some definitions and look at some examples, and by the end of it all, you'll know everything you need to know about chronicles.

Chronicles, book shelf, StudySmarterChronicles are a method of recording history.

Definition of a Chronicle

The word chronicle can be a noun (a naming word used to refer to a person, animal, or thing) or a verb (an action word). We'll be using both definitions throughout this article, so it makes sense to look at both in the beginning:

As a noun, chronicle refers to a (usually) factual and chronological written account of significant historical events.

As a verb, chronicle means to write one of these accounts.

The person who writes a chronicle is called a chronicler. Chronicles were often commissioned by high-ranking figures such as kings and other rulers.

Chronicle in a Sentence

Before we move on with the article and look at the purpose of chronicles and some examples, let's first see how to use the two different versions of "chronicle" in a sentence:

Noun: "The scribe had written a chronicle of the great war."

Verb: "I am going to chronicle my travels so I will always remember them."

Now that we have our key definitions out of the way and have seen how each definition can be used, let's move on to some other words with similar meanings:

Synonyms for Chronicles

Just in case there's any doubt or you'd like some extra clarification, here are some other words with similar meanings to "chronicle":

  • record: a story, or retelling of events, that has been written down or otherwise preserved

  • annal: recorded evidence of the events in a one-year period

  • chronology: a way of presenting events in time order

There are no direct synonyms for chronicles, but these alternatives should give you a better idea of what a chronicle is all about.

The Meaning of Chronicles

Now that we know what a chronicle is, the next questions become: What do chronicles mean? Why are they important? Why have so many people dedicated years of their lives to writing them? Let's find out!

Chronicles are a significant tool for both storytelling and recording the events of history. Any person, organization, or society that goes through the effort of writing a chronicle has something important to say or something that they want future generations to know about.

Chronicles lay out and describe significant events in chronological order, enabling the reader to create a timeline of these events. Having a timeline of events can help historians to pick apart wars, revolutions, and other important occurrences to better understand the causes and effects of these events.

To the people who write them, chronicles represent a way for them to tell the stories of the time and ensure that these stories will be passed on. Chronicles might also enable the chronicler to share truths about difficult situations that they may not have been able to share in their own society.

Chronicles not only lay out the order of historical events, but can also portray information about the political, cultural, and religious attitudes that influenced, or were influenced by, these events.

Types of Chronicles

There are two key types of chronicles: live chronicles and dead chronicles.

Live chronicles are when a chronicle extends into the lifetime of the chronicler. In other words, a live chronicle covers not only past events, but it also covers events that happen during the chronicler's life.

Dead chronicles, by contrast, only cover past events. Dead chronicles do not include any events that occurred during the chronicler's lifetime.

Examples of Chronicles

There's no better way to clarify a topic than to provide some examples. Here are some examples of chronicles:

Example 1: The Spring and Autumn Annals

The Spring and Autumn Annals (Chūnqiū, 春秋) are thought to have been compiled by the Chinese philosopher Confucius between 772 and 481 BC.

The Spring and Autumn Annals are a record of events during this period in the State of Lu. They cover events such as the marriages and deaths of rulers, battles and wars, natural disasters, and significant astronomical events.

The Spring and Autumn Annals are now one of the Five Classics in Chinese literary history. It is an example of a live chronicle, as it spans from before the birth of Confucius to events that occurred during his lifetime (Confucius lived between 551 and 479 BC).

Chronicles, Confucius statue, StudySmarterConfucius was a famous Chinese philosopher.

Example 2: The Babylonian Chronicles

The Babylonian Chronicles were recorded, not on paper, but on stone tablets. They were written in cuneiform (a script of logos and symbols used by various ancient Middle Eastern civilizations), and span the period between the reign of Nabonassar and the Parthian Period (747 to 227 BC).

The Babylonian Chronicles have no provenance (there is no official record of their author, origin, or ownership), but historians believe they were written by ancient Babylonian astronomers in Mesopotamia. The chronicles span significant swathes of Babylonian history and events.

As the exact writers of the Babylonian Chronicles are unknown, it is also unknown whether they are an example of a live or dead chronicle.

Example 3: Historia Ecclesiastica

Historia Ecclesiastica was written by Orderic Vitalis, a Catholic Monk of the Order of St. Benedict. The chronicle was split into three separate sections, each covering the events of a specific time period.

  • The first two books were all about the history of Christianity from the birth of Christ.

  • Books 3 to 6 were written between 1123 and 1131 and spanned the history of The Abbey of Saint-Evroul in Normandy, as well as William the conqueror's conquests, and other significant political and religious events happening in Normandy.

  • Books 7 to 13, the final section of Historia Ecclesiastica covered the history of France under the Carolingian and Capet dynasties, the French empire, the reign of various popes, and various battles up to 1141 when Stephen of England was defeated.

Historia Ecclesiastica is an example of a live chronicle, as Orderic Vitalis continued chronicling events up until a year before his death.

Chronicles, abbey, StudySmarterChronicles are important tools for historians, and allow them to unravel the stories of history.

This is a very small sampling of all the famous chronicles that have been written around the globe, however, it should give you a good impression of the types of events chroniclers are generally concerned with.

Unless you become a historian yourself, the likelihood of you ever reading one of these ancient chronicles is pretty slim. To bring the topic of chronicles back to a more relatable note, some other fictional examples include:

  • Percy Jackson & the Olympians (2005-2009) by Rick Riordan
  • The Spiderwick Chronicles (2003-2009) by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black
  • Harry Potter (1997-2007) by J.K. Rowling
  • The Underland Chronicles (2003-2007) by Suzanne Collins

These are just a few of the fictional chronicles that are out there. Many fictional chronicles belong to the fantasy genre.

Chronicles - Key Takeaways

  • A chronicle is a (usually) factual account of historical events written in chronological order.
  • There are two types of chronicles: live chronicles and dead chronicles.
  • Chronicles are important as they allow historians to see a timeline of important historical events, as well as understand the political, religious, and cultural factors that influenced these events.
  • There are chronicles from all over the world and from many different time periods.
  • Some famous chronicle examples are: Spring and Autumn Annals, The Babylonian Chronicles, and Historia Ecclesiastica.

Frequently Asked Questions about Chronicles

A chronicle is a chronological written account of significant historical events, that are often factual. To chronicle means to write a chronicle.

The word "chronicle" is both a noun and a verb. It can be used in a sentence like this:

Noun: "The scribe had written a chronicle of the great war."

Verb: "I am going to chronicle my travels, so I will always remember them."

Examples of famous chronicles include: 

  • Spring and Autumn Annals
  • The Babylonian Chronicles
  • Historia Ecclesiastica

The purpose of a chronicle is to record the events of a period of time without judgment or analysis. The events are recorded in chronological order. Chronicles can be used by historians to understand historical events and their various influential factors.

Because chronicles are often factual, chronological, and written without the author's analysis, they are impartial and useful records of historical events. This means that writers today are able to use chronicles as research materials for what life was like, and what events occurred, during a particular time.

Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

Which of these words best describes a chronicle?

What is the person who writes a chronicle called?

True or false, a chronicle is a method of storytelling.


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