John of Fordun

John of Fordun

John of Fordun (d. c. 1384) was a Scottish chronicler. It is generally stated that he was born at Fordoun, Mearns. It is certain that he was a secular priest, and that he composed his history in the latter part of the 14th century; and it is probable that he was a chaplain in the cathedral of Aberdeen.

The work of Fordun is the earliest attempt to write a continuous history of Scotland. We are informed that Fordun's patriotic zeal was roused by the removal or destruction of many national records by Edward III and that he travelled in England and Ireland, collecting material for his history.

Collectively, this work, divided into five books, is known as the Chronica gentis Scotorum. The first three are unverified historically, which therefore casts doubt on their accuracy, yet they also form the groundwork on which Boece and George Buchanan afterwards based some of their their historical writings, much of which was exposed by Thomas Innes as doubtful in his "Critical Essay" (i. pp. 201-2,4). The 4th and 5th books contain much valuable information, and become more authentic the more nearly they approach the author's own time. The 5th book concludes with the death of King David I in 1153.

Besides these five books, published around 1360, Fordun also wrote part of another book, and collected materials for bringing down the history to a later period. These materials were used by a continuator who wrote in the middle of the 15th century, and who is identified with Walter Bower, abbot of the monastery of Inchcolm. The additions of Bower form eleven books, and bring down the narrative to the death of King James I in 1437. According to the custom of the time, the continuator did not hesitate to interpolate Fordun's portion of the work, with additions of his own, and the whole history thus compiled is known as the "Scotichronicon".

The first printed edition of Fordun's work was that of Thomas Gale in his "Scriptores quindecim" (vol. iii.), which was published in 1691. This was followed by Thomas Hearne's (5 vols.) edition in 1722. The whole work, including Bower's continuation, was published by Walter Goodall at Edinburgh in 1759. In 1871 and 1872 Fordun's chronicle, in the original Latin and in an English translation, was edited by William F Skene in "The Historians of Scotland". The preface to this edition collects all the biographical details and gives full references to manuscripts and editions.


*A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature
* For further discussion of the political motivations which may have influenced the approach taken in the "Chronica Gentis Scotorum", see : Goldstein, J. "The Matter of Scotland : Historical Narrative in Medieval Scotland" University of Nebraska Press (1993); esp. Chapter 4.

External links

first=Felix James Henry
first2=William Forbes
author2-link=William Forbes Skene
title=John of Fordun's Chronicle of the Scottish Nation
publisher=Edmonston and Douglas

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