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The History of the Kings of Britain: An Edition and Translation of the de Gestis Britonum (Historia Regum Brittannie)
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The History of the Kings of Britain: An Edition and Translation of the de Gestis Britonum (Historia Regum Brittannie)

3.73  ·  Rating Details ·  4,321 Ratings  ·  148 Reviews
This imaginative history of the Britons, written in the twelfth century, contains the first appearance of many mythical figures, King Lear and King Arthur among them. It rapidly became a bestseller' across the British Isles and Europe: over 200 manuscripts survive. Here, an authoritative version of the text is presented with a facing translation, prepared especially for th ...more
Paperback, 307 pages
Published May 1st 2009 by Boydell Press (first published 1138)
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Liz BooksandStuff
May 03, 2016 Liz BooksandStuff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
This book is not only about
It is about a bunch of crazy people that lived throughout the history of Britain, all the way to the time this book was written (and the hopeful return of the Once and Future King), from the Trojans to the Anglo-Saxons, with a lot of myth mixed in. The book itself is very inaccurate, but it has early accounts of King Lear and Arthur Pendragon, so I do not care how imprecise it is, I love it. I mean, Monmouth said that "someone gave him the text for him to translate.
Evan Leach
This is a very interesting read, especially for Arthurian buffs. The book's description of Geoffrey as a "sometimes less than reliable" historian is some serious understatement - even Geoffrey's more learned contemporaries understood this "history" to be largely a product of the author's own imagination. But it's an important book nonetheless. In the course of Geoffrey's 2,000 year tale, he presents the earliest known version of the King Lear story and the first English (non-Welsh) telling of th ...more
Feb 17, 2016 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"... it is easier for a kite to be made to act like a sparrow-hawk than for a wise man to be fashioned at short notice from a peasant. He who offers any depth of wisdom to such a person is acting as though he were throwing a pearl among swine."

Well, the short way to express my opinion of The History of the Kings of Britain is simply to say this: this book is a big freakin' deal.

Although this account is not seen as anything more than fiction or at the most very, very twisted bits and pieces of t
Mark Adderley
May 23, 2009 Mark Adderley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain is the story of all the legendary kings of Britian, from the founder, Brutus, the grandson of Aeneas, down to the last king of Britain, Cadwalladr. On the way, Geoffrey recounts the tales of King Leir, Cymbeline, and Julius Caesar's invasion of Britain. Most importantly, however, one fifth of the book is devoted to retelling the life story of King Arthur. Geoffrey was actually the first person to do this. Immensely popular in the Middle Ages ...more
Maan Kawas
Jan 23, 2015 Maan Kawas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very beautiful book by Geoffrey of Monmouth, which was written around 1136! The book is not exactly a historical book, as it combines historical accounts and (inaccurate) facts with legend; however, it is an enchanting book of the medieval times. The book narrates the lives of key kings of Britain throughout a period of two thousand years, from its foundation (allegedly) by the Trojan Brutus (descendant from Aeneas) to the control of the Anglo-Saxon. The book sheds lights on the pagan life an ...more
Michael Dworaczyk
Have you ever heard of the Reduced Shakespeare Company? They were a comedy troupe who specialized in abbreviated versions of Shakespeare's plays. Supposedly, they hold the record for the quickest performance of Hamlet, clocking in at 43 seconds. Impressive, huh?

No less impressive is Geoffrey of Monmouth. In The History of the Kings of Britain, he blazes through about 2000 years in less than 300 pages (actually closer to 200 when you take out the introduction.)

Centuries fly by like seconds, and b
Justin Evans
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 Estr ...more
Jan 23, 2008 Vince rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a classic example of crafting a national identity. Geoffrey promulgated a completely new history for the Normans--Vikings who settled in northern France for a while before accumulating enough money and arms to invade Britain--that cast them as the noble descendents of Romans (Brutus, no less!) who briefly left their true and native Britain while the real invaders, the Saxons, occupied it. You see, the Normans didn't conquer Britain. No, it was theirs all along. And the Welsh and Britons ...more
Mark Adderley
May 23, 2009 Mark Adderley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This translation can be compared with Lewis Thorpe's older translation for Penguin.

The History of the Kings of Britain

Michael A. Faletra's translation is more accurate than Thorpe's though a bit stilted in places. The great advantage of Faletra's translation, though, is the appendices, in which Faletra reprints long passages from other Arthurian works such as Nennius' History of the Britons and Gildas' On the Ruin of Britain, as well as the complete text of Geoffrey's own later Life of Merlin. O
Dec 06, 2015 Doug rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this fascinating, though I can see where others would find this dull. Written in the early 1100s it traces the legendary history of Britain from the fall of Troy to God expelling the Britons for their sinful ways through famine and plague about 700 CE. It picks up were the Aeneid ends and follows Aeneas's great-grandson Brutus to the founding of Britain. A highlight of the books is a "historical" treatment of King Arthur which gives macro view of his campaigns consolidating Britain, to c ...more
Pine Cone Boy

Geoffrey of Monmouth was tripping balls, man.

No but seriously the whole time I was reading this I was going, "Not only is this a pack of lies concocted to show how Britons are the best and Saxons suck, but they're not even GOOD lies." Which I mean is still kinda true, but it's probably important to keep in mind that most of medieval historiography was pretty lie-centric, and Geoffrey was the first dude to cook up a British history that wasn't just for the ruling elites, bu
Steve Hemmeke
Monmouth tells the history of the Britons, coming as refugees from Troy until their defeat by the Saxons in the 7th century. This is a history of conquest and rule, with a recurring theme of wanting to be free of bondage or tribute-paying. Rome plays a minor role when Julius Caesar sought to subjugate them. Geoffrey proudly recounts the Britons’ rebuff of Rome.

He gives us Arthur and Merlin’s prophecies. Merlin is more legendary than Arthur in Monmouth – the Arthur legends get bigger later. Arth
Yaasha Moriah
I began to read THE HISTORY OF THE KINGS OF BRITAIN because I am researching the Arthurian legends for a book I am writing (working title: THE CODE OF CAMELOT) and this books is apparently one of the earliest references to Arthur and Merlin.

This book is a mix of history and myth. The footnotes clarify which portions are true and which ones are likely false. While the archaic style and the subject is not one that would likely tempt me to re-read the book (hence the three stars), I did enjoy it fo
Dec 13, 2015 Carolina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mi-biblioteca
Siempre es hermoso ver como un autor busca darle identidad al territorio que ama como suyo. Geoffrey de Monmouth crea todo un trasfondo mítico y mágico acerca del origen de Inglaterra, dice traducir un documento que el archidiácono de Oxford (en la época del autor la universidad de Oxford aún no se ha fundado pero la ciudad de Oxford ya era reconocida por su carácter académico) le hace llegar. Libro que, como es de esperarse, no existe.

El autor traza una línea genealógica que nace en Brutus, nie
presents the standard history of england from the time that a section of trojans left aeneas' group in rome and went to britain. what kind of death-choosing skeptic must one be to doubt this?

historia regum britanniae is mostly consistent with its title, though in the overt arthurian sections, there is a lengthy focus on sorcery & prophetics.
A ridiculous amusing book, describing the 'history' of English kings and queens through the years, from the first Britons who were exiles from Troy to the bastards who have the crown a couple hundred years before Geoff is writing. It's complete with Merlin prophecies, which include:

'All the soil will be fruitful beyond man's need; and human beings will fornicate unceasingly.'


'A Hedgehog loaded with apples shall re-build the town, and attracted by the smell of these apples, birds will flock th
A very fun, fairy-tale esque take on the "History" of Britain. Geoffrey is tracing the history of the Britain's history prior to the Anglo-saxon arrival; however, Geoffrey states himself that he wishes not to bore his readers with his history. The purpose of Geoffrey's writing is to provide a romanticized, political history that is not so much accurate but more appealing to those who wish to be entertained, and in this way his history is not so much an accurate depiction of what actually happene ...more
Keith Davis
Historia Regum Britanniae is a highly mythologized, and possibly fictional, history of Britain prior to the Anglo-Saxon conquest. Published in 1136, the work covers 2,000 years between the Fall of Troy to the reign of Cadwallader the last non-Saxon king. Geoffrey claims to have translated an ancient historical book written in the Welsh language, but it is more likely that he invented the Alternate History genre. It may be wrong to judge the book by historiographical standards though because it c ...more
Jim Kerr
Oct 01, 2015 Jim Kerr rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Written in 1136, the History of the Kings of Britain is a milestone in literature. In it, Geoffrey of Monmouth has created a national narrative of Britain that heretofore hadn't existed. Even, near contemporaries criticized him for his inaccuracies. William of Newburgh was extremely critical, saying "only a person ignorant of ancient history would have any doubt about how shamelessly and impudently he lies in almost everything."
However, it's not history that is important in this work. For the fi
Mar 17, 2014 Kathy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I really tried to like this book since I love history and Arthurian Lit but I just couldn't. I didn't like it as a "history" or as "literature". Read this for class. And my professor did tell us not to take this as "history". In fact it just pissed me off because of all the double-standards in the book. And 99% of the reason why I hated this book was because it wasn't historically accorate and I knew that from the beginning but it still bothered me and because of the way that the Pagans were por ...more
I feel I need not speak at any length about the dubious amount of actual history contained in this influential little volume, nor would I bet money on Monmouth believing in the strict historicity of his work when he wrote it. Monmouth does, unfortunately, believe a little to readily in the patriotic spirit, which obviously inspired him to write it. Where one might smile at the slight ridiculousness of Dumas’s Musketeers, Monmouth invites no such balance of opinion where the monarchs of legend ar ...more
Mar 11, 2013 Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's by no means considered history in the modern sense, but it's a foundation myth at a time when how good your story is was what mattered, not whether you could back it up by facts.
Albion, inhabited by the giants, is settled by Brutus, grandson of Aeneas of Troy (and thus making the founder of Britain related to the legendary founders of Rome - Romulus & Remus). Brutus' three sons then divide the country between them (England, Scotland and Wales) before we skim through lots of minor stuff
Robyn Ellis
Jun 12, 2014 Robyn Ellis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, arthurian
First of all, in spite of the name, this book is not history. Some of it may be very, very loosely rooted in historical fact, but it is, for the most part, a sort of "creation myth" for Britain. It tells of a Britain full of giants, and crusty, old soldiers who wrestle giants for kicks, and warrior princesses, and dragons, and sea monsters, and wizards, and did I mention dragons? The British kings and warriors are heroic as can be, and they really just want to be left alone to conquer the rest o ...more
Stephanie Ricker
Then, in another whiplash-inducing switch of topic, I read The History of the Kings of Britain by Geoffrey of Monmouth, written in 1136 or thereabouts. Geoffrey, like Steinbeck, is a bit of a King Arthur fanboy. He spends more time on him than on any of the other kings, and seems to lose interest in the history pretty quickly after Arthur’s death. I found the book to be unexpectedly fascinating, albeit very dense. Geoffrey told the story of a king named Leir, and after a minute I realized this w ...more
Jose Vera
Cuando uno lee el título puede pensar que estamos ante un tratado histórico serio y documentado. Nada más ajeno a la realidad.

Geoffrey de Monmouth crea todo un trasfondo mítico y mágico acerca del origen de Inglaterra, para ello no duda en decir que la historia que esta presentando no es más que una traducción de un libro que el archidiácono de Oxford le hace llegar. Libro que, como es de esperarse, no existe.

En esta fantástica recorrido, el autor traza una línea genealógica que nace en Brutus,
Nov 11, 2011 Shawn rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Written very well, but I have a few issues with this book.
First, this is hardly a book of historical fact. Not when you are writing about wizards, giants, sea creatures, monsters and magic. Not to mention events and figures that I, nor most people, believe ever occurred or existed. Events such as the Trojan War. And more-than-likely mythical figures such as King Arthur or Guinevere.
Secondly, if one IS going to write about Arthur or Guinevere as historical people, how can you not include Sir Lanc
Jen Thompson
Sep 14, 2013 Jen Thompson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was very interesting! Took forever to read because it is all about war and deception, making it hard to take in. A bit confessing at times, what with the hundreds of Kings there were throughout the decades, but I did learned a lot!
I found it very interesting that supposedly Geoffrey of Monmouth is the one who started the Arthurian Legends, but his story was nothing of how the Legends we know and love are. For instance Arthur never new Merlin in his lifetime, there was no round table a
This was a fascinating, if sometimes slow, read. Geoffrey of Monmouth’s entertaining interpretation of British history has plenty of worth despite the fact that I’m probably going to be shelving it with the rest of my fiction. I love history – it’s a wonderful discipline that gives me a very comfortable sense of “knowing” through dates and facts and other seemingly concrete and indisputable little bits of information – but in many ways I would argue that this type of work is infinitely more illu ...more
George Leach
Written in the 10th Century, Geoffrey de Monmouth's "History" is about as historically accurate as you'd expect when it contains a whole section on King Arthur and Merlin. However it makes for a fun tale of epic scope detailing about 2000 years of highly suspect British history (who knew the Britons were descended from the Trojans?) including some stuff about giants and dragons.

What makes this interesting is that it is effectively a propaganda piece with numerous contradictions detailing how gre
Aug 25, 2013 Andrew rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Geoffrey of Monmouth's semi-mythic History is an odd book. True, most of the historical narrative is embellished, if not blatantly fictional, but what makes up for it's lack of authenticity is it's clarity and focus. Historical figures have a definite, if two-dimensional, character, and the author feels free to skip over the unexciting parts of British history. Readers will discover the origins of legendary figures such as King Lear, Merlin, and the greatest of all British heroes, King Arthur, i ...more
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Mythgard Institut...: Geoff of Monmouth 2 23 May 28, 2012 06:24PM  
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  • Tristan: With the Tristran of Thomas
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  • Complete Works
  • The Journey Through Wales & The Description of Wales
  • The Anglo-Saxon World: An Anthology
  • Chronicles of the Crusades
  • Chronicles
  • The Anglo Saxon Chronicle
  • The Lais of Marie de France
  • The Romance of Tristan
  • Two Lives of Charlemagne
  • Parzival
  • The Letters of Abélard and Héloïse

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“Britain, the best of islands, is situated in the Western Ocean, between France and Ireland.” 1 likes
“When fatigue finally forced him to pause, he ordered the men who were left to have their hearts torn out and their carcasses burned” 0 likes
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