Historical Writing and Warfare

Meredith L. D. Riedel

in The Oxford History of Historical Writing

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199236428
Published online January 2018 | e-ISBN: 9780191863349 | DOI:

Series: Oxford History of Historical Writing

Historical Writing and Warfare

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This chapter examines how medieval cultures in the East were generally more reticent than Western ones in describing warfare in bloody detail. It looks at how three cultures approached the recording of war very differently. The Tang Chinese histories are formulaic, abstract to the point of statistics; they offer only names and casualty numbers. Byzantine writing about warfare is pragmatic, gives some operational details, and is concerned for the character of commanders, but avoids exalting them. Abbasid war poetry and chronicles glorify the moral superiority of Muslim commanders, especially in comparison to non-Muslim opponents, yet present the brute facts of battles in an epigrammatic way. All three cultures combined accounts of war with the exigencies of religion, which influenced their goals before battle and means of commemoration after battle.

Keywords: medieval cultures; East; West; warfare; Tang Chinese; Byzantine writing; Abbasid war poetry; religion

Chapter.  13512 words. 

Subjects: Theory, Methods, and Historiography

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