Bede, Priest, Monastic and Historian, 735
It is hard for us to imagine Eighth Century Britain. We think of it as dark, cold, and remote. The reality is otherwise. We think of it as dark, only because so few documents exist to shed light on events that took place in what we call The Dark Ages. It probably was cold, but it was certainly not remote. Britain, including the monastic community of Wearmouth and Jarrow where Bede lived, was situated on trade routes that stretched from northern Britain to India, Afghanistan, and China. Archeological studies of glass, parchments, and pigments found, or known to have originated in Jarrow, demonstrate the complex web of Eighth Century trade. It is also well known that Bede’s monastery possessed one of the greatest libraries in all Europe, with manuscripts devoted to scripture, as well as classical and secular texts. It is estimated that the library contained over 250 separate works, which was an enormous number for the time.
Far from being a backwater, the monastery where Bede spent almost his entire life, was a centre of culture and learning, and Bede himself, was probably its greatest member. In fact, it is said that Bede was the greatest scholar of his day, in all Europe, writing scriptural commentaries based on patristic interpretations, poems, hymns, and essays on orthography. He treatise on chronology, while not original, popularized the counting of time before and after the birth of Christ. The BC – AD system county years is still used throughout most of the world today. His most significant works were his Life of St. Cuthbert, and his Ecclesiastical History of the English People. All of these works demonstrated the breadth of his learning, and his care as a scholar who consulted a wide range of documents, evaluated his sources, and most importantly cited them. If it can be said that there was one person who invented the study of history, that person has to be Bede.