Historia Calamitatum (known in English as “Story of His Misfortunes” or “A history of my Calamities”), also known as Abaelardi ad Amicum Suum Consolatoria, is an autobiographical work in Latin by Peter Abelard (1079-1142), a medieval French pioneer of scholastic philosophy. The work, written in 1132 or soon after, is one of the first autobiographical works in medieval Western Europe, written in the form of a letter (and, as such, is clearly influenced by Augustine of Hippo’s Confessions).
This extensive letter provides an honest self-analysis of Peter Abelard’s up to the age of about fifty-four. The Historia Calamitatum provides readers with knowledge of his views of women, learning, monastic life, Church and State combined, and the social milieu of the time. Within this important piece of literature, not only is one side of one of history’s best-known love stories told, but integral parts of the history of the Middle Ages are revealed. It should be particularly noted that this book was written at a time when Western Europe was just surfacing into the world of philosophy. The Historia is exceptionally readable, and presents a remarkably honest self-portrait of a man who could be arrogant and often felt persecuted. It provides a clear and fascinating picture of intellectual life in Paris before the formalization of the University, of the intellectual excitement of the period, of monastic life, and of his affair with Heloise, one of history’s most famous love stories. Throughout this letter, Abelard emphasizes how persecuted he feels by his peers. He quotes saints, apostles, and at one point, compares his struggles in likeness to those of Christ.