Ecclesiastical History of the English People

by Saint Bede the Venerable

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Where does history end and legend begin in the Ecclesiastical History of the English People?

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Where history ends and legend begins in Bede is by no means clear-cut. This is because, as was common with historians at the time, he draws extensively upon legends throughout his Ecclesiastical History of the English People.

As a Christian monk, Bede naturally finds himself drawn to elements of the miraculous to provide explanations for earthly events. Inevitably, this raises suspicions among non-Christian readers as to the historical veracity of Bede's claims.

Nevertheless, Bede is unapologetic about incorporating legends, miracles, and folktales into his narrative. As a devout Christian, he sees no problem that the creatures of the earth should obey St. Cuthbert, a man of God, just as they obeyed the great author of all creatures, God himself.

Bede is at pains to investigate the authenticity of the many miracles he relates. But he does so on the assumption that miracles are real and can therefore be verified. Suffice to say, this is most certainly not the kind of method that would be used by historians today.

To be sure, Bede does relate genuinely historical events in his Ecclesiastical History, but the profusion of miracles and legends makes it extremely difficult for the modern reader to detect precisely where history as we would understand it ends and legend begins.

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