Annals (Latin "Annales", from "annus", a year) are a concise form of historical writing which record events chronologically, year by year.


Ancient Rome

The chief sources of information in regard to the annals of ancient Rome are two passages in Cicero ("De Oratore", ii. 12. 52) and in Servius ("ad Aen". i. 373) which have been the subject of much discussion. Cicero states that from the earliest period down to the pontificate of Publius Mucius Scaevola (c. 131 BC), it was usual for the pontifex maximus to record on a white tablet ("album"), which was exhibited in an open place at his house, so that the people might read it, first, the name of the consuls and other magistrates, and then the noteworthy events that had occurred during the year ("per singulos dies", as Servius says). These records were called in Cicero's time the "Annales maximi". After the pontificate of Publius, the practice of compiling annals was carried on by various unofficial writers, of whom Cicero names Cato, Pictor and Piso. The "Annales" have been generally regarded as the same with the "Commentarii Pontificum" cited by Livy, but there seems reason to believe that the two were distinct, the "Commentarii" being fuller and more circumstantial. The nature of the distinction between annals and history is a subject that has received more attention from critics than its intrinsic importance deserves. The basis of discussion is furnished chiefly by the above-quoted passage from Cicero, and by the common division of the work of Tacitus into "Annales" and "Historiae". Aulus Gellius, in the "Noctes Atticae" (v. 18), quotes the grammarian Verrius Flaccus, to the effect that history, according to its etymology (ιστορειν, "inspicere", to inquire in person), is a record of events that have come under the author's own observation, while annals are a record of the events of earlier times arranged according to years. This view of the distinction seems to be borne out by the division of the work of Cornelius Tacitus into the "Historiae", relating the events of his own time, and the "Annales", containing the history of earlier periods. It is more than questionable, however, whether Tacitus himself divided his work under these titles. The probability is, either that he called the whole "Annales", or that he used neither designation.


In Middle Ages, when the order of the liturgical feasts was partly determined by the date of Easter, the custom was early established in the Western Church of drawing up tables to indicate that date for a certain number of years or even centuries. These Paschal tables were thin books in which each annual date was separated from the next by a more or less considerable blank space. In these spaces certain monks briefly noted the important events of the year. It was at the end of the 7th century and among the Irish that the compiling of these Annals was first begun – see the Annals of the Four Masters, the Annals of Ulster, the Annals of Innisfallen and the Annales Cambriae or Annals of Wales, one of the earliest sources for King Arthur. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is also in annalistic, year-by-year form.

Introduced by missionaries on the continent, they were re-copied, augmented and continued, especially in the kingdom of Austrasia. In the 9th century, during the great movement termed the Carolingian Renaissance, these Annals became the usual form of contemporary history; it suffices to mention the "Royal Frankish Annals", the "Annales Fuldenses", the "Annales Bertiniani", the "Annales Laureshamenses" (or "of Lorsch"), officially compiled in order to preserve the memory of the more interesting acts of Charlemagne, his ancestors and his successors. Arrived at this stage of development, the Annals now began to lose their primitive character, and henceforward became more and more indistinguishable from the Chronicles, though the term was still used for many documents, such as the Annals of Waverley.

18th century to present

In modern literature the title "annals" has been given to a large number of standard works which adhere more or less strictly to the order of years. The best known are the "Annales Ecclesiastici", written by Cardinal Baronius as a rejoinder to and refutation of the "Historia eccesiastica" or "Centuries" of the Protestant theologians of Magdeburg (12 volumes, published in Rome from 1788 to 1793; Baronius's work stops at the year 1197). In the 19th century the annalistic form was once more employed, either to preserve year by year the memory of passing events ("Annual Register", "Annuaire de la Revue des deux mondes", &c.) or in writing the history of obscure medieval periods ("Jahrbücher der deutschen Geschichte", "Jahrbücher des deutschen Reiches", Richter's "Reichsannalen", etc.). Today, the most cited law journal in the Balkans is called the "Annals of the Faculty of Law in Belgrade"

Other works

Other historical works known by the title Annals include:
** The "Annals of the Old Testament" by Archbishop James Ussher
** Medieval German annals: The *Other
* Chinese Annals, such as the Spring and Autumn Annals, attributed to Confucius; the Annals of Three Kingdoms; the Annals of the Warring States
* The Annals of Joseon Dynasty, a work of Korean history
* The "Annals" of Tabari, a 10th century Iranian historian
* The Sejarah Melayu or "Malay Annals"

Magazines and journals include:

* The Annals of Improbable Research, a science humor magazine
* The IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, a computer science research journal on the history of computer science and history of computer hardware
* The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, a policy and scientific journal in political and social science
* The Annals of Human Genetics, a scientific journal
* The Annals of Mathematics, a mathematics research journal
* The Annals of Family Medicine, a peer-reviewed research journal on family medicine
* The Annals of Internal Medicine, a peer-reviewed journal published by the American College of Physicians
* The Annals of Probability, a peer-reviewed mathematics journal published by the Institute of Mathematical Statistics

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.


Look at other dictionaries:

  • Annals — An nals, n. pl. [L. annalis (sc. liber), and more frequently in the pl. annales (sc. libri), chronicles, fr. annus year. Cf. {Annual}.] 1. A relation of events in chronological order, each event being recorded under the year in which it happened …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • annals — index calendar (record of yearly periods), documentation Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • annals — (n.) 1560s, from L. annales libri chronicles, lit. yearlies, yearly books, noun use of plural of annalis pertaining to a year, from annus year (see ANNUAL (Cf. annual) (adj.)) …   Etymology dictionary

  • annals — chronicle, *history …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • annals — [an′əlz] pl.n. [L annalis, pl. annales < annus, year: see ANNUAL] 1. a written account of events year by year in chronological order 2. historical records or chronicles; history 3. any journal reporting discoveries in some field, meetings of a …   English World dictionary

  • annals — [[t]æ̱n(ə)lz[/t]] 1) N PLURAL: usu in the N of n If something is in the annals of a nation or field of activity, it is recorded as part of its history. He has become a legend in the annals of military history. 2) N PLURAL: with supp, usu the N of …   English dictionary

  • annals — an|nals [ˈænlz] n [plural] [Date: 1500 1600; : Latin; Origin: annales, from annalis; ANNUAL1] 1.) in the annals of sth in the whole history of something ▪ one of the most unusual cases in the annals of crime 2.) used in the titles of official… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • annals — noun (plural) 1 an official record of events or activities: the Annals of the Zoological Society 2 in the annals of history/British politics etc in the whole history of something: one of the most disgraceful episodes in the annals of British… …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

  • annals — noun /ˈæn.əlz/ a) A relation of events in chronological order, each event being recorded under the year in which it happened. Annals the revolution. . b) Historical records; chronicles; history. The annals of our religion. . Syn: history …   Wiktionary

  • annals — an|nals [ ænlz ] noun plural the official records of an organization, arranged according to their date the annals of something the whole history of something: an event unprecedented in the annals of war …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.