Vol. 6 (2017): A Time of Their Own. Experiencing Time and Temporalityin the Early Modern World, 
Part Two - Case Studies

Time and Exemplarity

Anne Eriksen
Laboratorio editoriale OA / Dip. LILSI
Published March 10, 2017
How to Cite
Eriksen, A. (2017). Time and Exemplarity. Journal of Early Modern Studies, 6, 183-204. https://doi.org/10.13128/JEMS-2279-7149-20394


The idea of history as magistra vitae – a collection of good and bad examples – was a central topos of historical writing in the West from antiquity till the late eighteenth century. The idea has served a number of different ends, motivating advanced political theory as well as functioning as a mere saying. The article investigates two books of historical examples, written for pedagogical purposes addressing young boys, both explicitly produced with this aim in mind: Johannes Schefferus’ Memorabilium Sueticae gentis exemplorum liber singularis (1671) and Ove Malling’s Store og gode Handlinger af Danske, Norske og Holstenere (1777). They differ considerably from modern history books in not being structured chronologically but according to the virtues the histories are meant to illustrate. The article compares the books’ structure, tables of content, choice of virtues and introductory texts. The aim is to explore the tension between exemplarity and temporality in the two collections.