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The History of the Kings of Britain by…

The History of the Kings of Britain

by Geoffrey of Monmouth

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,093195,215 (3.62)49
Completed in 1136, The History of the Kings of Britain traces the story of the realm from its supposed foundation by Brutus to the coming of the Saxons some two thousand years later. Vividly portraying legendary and semi-legendary figures such as Lear, Cymbeline, Merlin the magician and the most famous of all British heroes, King Arthur, it is as much myth as it is history and its veracity was questioned by other medieval writers. But Geoffrey of Monmouth's powerful evocation of illustrious men and deeds captured the imagination of subsequent generations, and his influence can be traced through the works of Malory, Shakespeare, Dryden and Tennyson.… (more)
  1. 20
    The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien (ed.pendragon)
    ed.pendragon: Tolkien was very familar with The History of the Kings of Britain, with its invented history resonant with verisimilitude but, at root, true fantasy, and echoed its approach particularly in The Lord of the Rings.
  2. 00
    Chronicles by Raphael Holinshed (BINDINGSTHATLAST)
  3. 00
    Arthurian Chronicles by Robert Wace (Michael.Rimmer)

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» See also 49 mentions

English (18)  Spanish (1)  All languages (19)
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
It is hard to place a numerical score on older literature, as our ideas of what is "good" is often constructed from out contemporaries. Geoffrey of Monmouth is a prime example of this time issue.

The History of the Kings of Britain is meant to serve not as a tale of epic proportions, but as a record, translated from British (ancient Welsh) into Latin. Still, the History toes a fine line between history and mythology, as most of the events (insert Merlin and King Arthur) have little root in fact.

That said, pre-orthodox historiography (for some early "normal history," read some Leopold van Ranke or Francis Parkman) tends to flirt with the mythic. You can see this from Herodotus into the early modern period.

So thus the problem emerges: how should I judge this? For me, as an academic, I feel inclined to reserve this text as "historical" or "academic," an example of historiography-in-action, yet judging from the other reviews on this site, people seem inclined to read it for pleasure.

My decision is thus: rather than reward this text as "timeless," I choose to give it a rating in scoring of how I perceive the average reader would rate this (my score is not ironically near the average rating). That said, the above points should be noted prior to reading. Still worthwhile, but there are better written books (for the purpose of pleasure reading). ( )
  MarchingBandMan | Sep 12, 2017 |
An example of the murky boundary between history and romance in Plantagenet times. This is good entertainment, a racy history that would please the Plantagenet court. Modern research has disproved almost everything in it, but it remains an artefact of the period. it definitely provided the basis of other author's work. there's another book that has crossed my shelves a good deal like this in tone, and sadly, veracity, Dudo of Saint Quentin's "History of the Normans." If you like this one give Dudo a try. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Aug 18, 2017 |
A very lolarious history, what I liked best were the snarky footnotes that commented on Geoffrey's bad math skills and incompetence with the geography of England. ( )
  likecymbeline | Apr 1, 2017 |
Geoffrey’s history is too much chronology and too little history. He’s left the story out of the history—ironically because so many stories were generated by his chronicle of stick figures squabbling. Geoffrey’s account is about as interesting and listening to someone else reciting their genealogy for hours on end. ( )
  MaowangVater | Mar 19, 2017 |
There are too many things to review here. Geoffrey's history is refreshingly well written for a medieval latin work, and the translation is very well done. It's not, of course, 'history' in any sense, and it can be pretty hard work slogging through the parts that don't deal with dramatic or fabulous stories. Parts of this felt like the bible's begats, and nobody needs more of that. The good stories, on the other hand, were genuinely interesting- Arthur of course, but also Locrinus' love for Estrildis, the story of King Leir, and the various narratives of battle trickeration.

The other thing to review is this edition. Good translation, but awful apparatus. I really needed something to tell me what, if anything, was historically accurate and what was pure fantasy. As it is, I kind of sort of remembered some names from Bede or recent histories of dark ages Britain (Penda, for instance). I would have loved some footnotes giving me a bit more information; it also would have made the text itself more interesting.

In any case, well worth reading. I'm ready to move on to some later Arthuriana. ( )
  stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (17 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Geoffrey of Monmouthprimary authorall editionscalculated
Thorpe, LewisTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dunn, Charles W.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Evans, SebastianTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jones, Gwynsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pin, ItaloEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Reeve, Michael D.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roberts, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wright, NeilTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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[Thorpe translation]
First words
Britain, the best of islands, is situated in the Western Ocean, between France and Ireland.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
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Haiku summary
Twelfth-century scribe's
fantasy best-seller spurs
Arthur revival.

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