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The Oxford History of Historical WritingVolume 2: 400-1400$
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Sarah Foot and Chase F. Robinson

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199236428

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199236428.001.0001

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Historical Writing and Warfare

Historical Writing and Warfare

(p.576) Chapter 27 Historical Writing and Warfare
The Oxford History of Historical Writing

Meredith L. D. Riedel

Oxford University Press

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

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