The Saint and the Count

A Case Study for Reading like a Historian

The Saint and the Count
Leah Shopkow
Publication Date
April 2021
University of Toronto Press

While historians know that history is about interpreting primary sources, students tend to think of history as a set of facts.

In The Saint and the Count, Leah Shopkow opens up the interpretive world of the historian using the biography of St. Vitalis of Savigny (d. 1122) as a case study. This biography was written around 1174 by Stephen of Fougères and provides a rich stage to demonstrate the kinds of questions historians ask about primary sources and the interpretive and conceptual frameworks they use. What is the nature of medieval sources and what are the interpretive problems they present? How does the positionality of Stephen of Fougères shape his biography of St. Vitalis? How did medieval people respond to stories of miracles? And finally, how does this biography illuminate the problem of violence in medieval society? A translation of the biography is included, so that readers can explore the text on their own.