It is surprisingly difficult to think of Bede as a man who had a future, and who thought about that future. He suffers the fate of those who died long ago (735), and are thus consigned to the one-dimensional world of ‘the past’. This is compounded in Bede’s case by the overwhelming influence of his Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum, which provides us with a narrative framework for the early history of Anglo-Saxon England to the year 731 and which preserves information about so many people and events from that period which might otherwise have been lost. In the autobiographical list of writings presented at the end of the Historia ecclesiastica (5.24), Bede explicitly designates some of his other works as ‘histories’ (i.e. narrative accounts): the Historia abbatum, a compact chronicle of the development of Bede’s own monastery at Wearmouth-Jarrow from its foundation down to September 716;1 and a group of texts ‘concerning the histories of the saints’ (de historiis sanctorum), which includes Vitae for the third-century confessor Felix of Nola and the Persian martyr Anastasius (d. 628) and two for Cuthbert of Melrose/Lindisfarne (d. 687).2 These works seem to be ‘histories’ in our eyes because they deal with events which from our perspective are unequivocally past, but we would do well to remember that for Bede the final chapters of the Historia abbatum were reportage of current events, as were the accounts of Cuthbert’s ongoing miracles.3 The other meaning of historia
1 A new edition and translation of the Historia abbatum has recently been published: C.W. Grocock and I.N. Wood, Abbots of Wearmouth and Jarrow (Oxford, 2013).