Minor Characters across Historiographies: A Comparative Narratological Analysis of Urban Populations in the Histories of Doukas and Leonardo Bruni
Matthew is currently a postdoctoral researcher in Byzantine history at the University of Vienna. He received his doctorate from the University of Oxford in 2018 with a thesis titled “Rethinking Thirteenth-Century Byzantine Historiography: A Postmodern, Narrativist, and Narratological Approach.” He has spent time as a postdoctoral researcher at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna, as a fellow at Dumbarton Oaks, Washington D.C., as a guest lecturer at Masaryk University, Brno, and as a gästdoktorand in Greek linguistics and philology at Uppsala University. He holds an MRes in Byzantine studies from the University of Birmingham and a BA in ancient, medieval, and modern history from Durham University.
The role of urban populations in the historiographies of Byzantium and Italy, both medieval and modern, are dramatically different. The traditional metanarratives of declining/autocratic empire and growing/egalitarian city states are dependent on the wealth of civic documentary records from Italy and their relative absence from Byzantium. However, these metanarrative frameworks and the alternative source material available to Italianists have obscured the fact that both traditions often construct urban populations as characters in similar (as well as divergent) ways. This project aims at a comparative analysis of the production of urban populations as characters in contemporary Byzantine and Italian historiography, using as case studies the fifteenth-century histories of Doukas and Leonardo Bruni. The focus of Doukas on Byzantium’s imperial rulers (and Ottoman enemies) and its implication in a millennium of Byzantine historiography contrasts with Bruni’s explicit focus on the people of Florence and apparent divergence from the city chronicle tradition. The comparative analysis of these texts – alongside the wider traditions in which they sit and in the case of Bruni from which they so dramatically diverge – will examine the relationship between modern reconstructions of Byzantine urban populations and their source material.