Elfinspell’s Online Introduction to

“History of the Langobards by Paul the Deacon,”

translated by William Dudley Foulke, LL.D.

Paul the Deacon, or Paulus Diaconus, is one of our few sources for early medieval history. He was a Langobard (Lombard) and has written the history of his people. William Dudley Foulke — a lawyer, politician, activist for civil service reform and women’s suffrage, as well as Quaker born — decided to translate it into English for the first time.

Paul, a Benedictine monk, from the monastery of Monte Cassino, in Italy, was also a man of many talents. He spoke Greek and good Latin (for his time), authored several works in prose and poetry and had diplomatic tendencies, visiting the court of Charles the Great. Charles was also impressed by his literary talents and liked him as a person as well, as is clear from the Introduction by Foulke, where he describes the jokes and word games they exchanged, in his Introduction. Thus helping to prove that Charles the Great was not as unlettered as Voltaire said, see the debate about his literacy on this site: The Middle Age Not a Starless Night, by Reuben Parsons.

W. D. Foulke’s day job was politics. He was a senator for the Progressive Party in Indiana, after leaving New York where he unsuccessfully battled the trusts. He was more successful against corruption in Indiana, where he lived after he moved west. An example of his reforming spirit can be read in his speech at The Sixth National Conference for Good City Government, held at Indianapolis, Indiana, 1898.

“The spirit of reform is in the air. We have been suffering in this State from some very grave abuses in our counties and townships, as well as in our cities. Contracts have been made for court houses, bridges and jails which are nearly always extravagant, often unnecessary and sometimes corrupt. The poor farm has been managed in many townships in a way that increases pauperism, and aids the political ambition of the commissioners who spend the money. Some reform is necessary from the ground up — one that will recreate the system.”

His activism worked then, as an Indiana citizen and senator, too bad it did not last!

I was surprised to read about his life. I assumed, since his book was published by the University of Pennsylvania, that he was a professor of that institution. Obviously not. The implication by the imprint is that he was one of their own and this has not been corrected anywhere obvious. Since that assumption is what we would think today, because colleges and universities usually only publish their own staff’s work, I am happy to correct it here. It would be nice if that did this sort of thing more often these days.

Foulke adds extensive footnotes to this text, which are extremely helpful, for example, he discusses the legal system and its changes attributable to the Lombards and how they treated the conquered Roman people. He is meticulous in citing the multiple authorities he uses, one of whom Thomas Hodgkin, a favorite medieval historian of mine. Hodgkin gave him permission to use four of his maps from Italy and Her Invaders. I don’t have that online, but I do have Hodgkin’s Charles the Great on this site, too, which complements this book, when read as well.

I would like to thank my kind, eagle-eyed pal, Bill Thayer for spotting some typos I would have missed: as Auximun, instead of Auximum, which he states any well-read Italian would know is wrong. A Google search shows that it is occasionally spelled this way in other English works, so the typo, once made, proliferated occasionally till late in the last century. It could be that this was a standard way to spell it for a while, but that is not for certain. Preferring the correct Italian version (since it is in their own country!) I have emended the spelling to Auximum.

Although there were very few typos, the index was done by another industrious person, A. Edel, who made most of the few there are. An error (possibly a typo) was also found, but not by me, since I have not checked the accuracy of the page numbers cited yet (and may never do so!). Luckily, there is an annotation in blue ink in my hard copy, which correctly points out that one of the page numbers to pope Savinianus is incorrect, AND gives the right one! So that is fixed. The anonymous annotator has my thanks! It is very good of Foulke to recognize Edel’s work. I have not seen that done before. Indexing is a laborious job and the indexer is usually uncredited. So this was nice to see.

In the online version here, of the original text, any typos have been corrected for the first time (as opposed to google scans and OCR’d reprints) and the changes are preserved in the source code of that webpage. Any information in brackets (few that there are) are mine: page numbers, the odd comma or semi-colon when not used in its usual way, and non-textual content relating to page usage. All other text is an exact copy of the original — barring any typos accidentally inserted of my own! (Do let me know if you catch them!)

The book is very well-written and highly readable (for history) and the look at the early Lombard presence and its leaders in Italy is fascinating. Click to see the Title Pages and Preface here, or on NEXT below, to begin reading.

For online additions, corrections, notes & design:
Copyright  © 2007
by Elfinspell