The History of the Kings of Britain
This imaginative history of the Britons, written in the twelfth century, is the first work to recount the woes of Lear and the glittering career of Arthur. It rapidly became a bestseller in the British Isles and Francophone Europe, with over 200 manuscripts surviving. Here, an authoritative version of the…
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Geoffrey’s History of the Kings is the work that picked Arthur up from the somewhat obscure backwater of Welsh story-telling and launched him onto the European stage, in the process creating a story that had an enormous influence on how the insular past was understood across the rest of the Middle Ages. Geoffrey was writing for the new Norman elite, who welcomed a view of the past which downplayed the Anglo-Saxons and centred instead on their rivals for control of ancient Britain, the Britons. He based his magnificent new work on the Historia Brittonum, a set of Welsh genealogies…
In the history of almost every culture, there comes a point where the tales of gods and heroes begin to fade into recorded mortal history. In Greek mythology, Homer’s account of the Trojan War in the Iliad is that point. In British history, Geoffrey of Monmouth recounts the transition without consciously meaning to do so. Written in the 12th century before there was a difference between myth and history, this book interweaves the two as it tries to tell the early history of the British Isles. It is also notable as an early source on King Arthur and Merlin.
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