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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)

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  3,597 ratings  ·  122 reviews
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 text is presented with a facing translation, prepared especially for ...more
Paperback, 307 pages
Published May 1st 2009 by Boydell Press (first published 1138)
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Au XIIème siècle, en Angleterre, quelques décennies après l'invasion normande de Guillaume le Conquérant, Geoffroy de Monmouth, clerc érudit, rédigea cette Histoire des rois de Bretagne afin de doter sa nation de toute le lustre d'une antiquité riche en hauts faits. A l'instar d'un Virgile, il invente une dynastie qu'il fait remonter à l'ancienne Troie, et lui donne la même parenté que celle de la ville éternelle. On découvre ainsi l'origine du Roi Lear qui a ici trois fille, et non trois fils c ...more
There's real history. There's fake history. There's mythology. There's legend. There's pure fantasy. There is utterly, dribblingly bonkers. And then there is Geoffrey of Monmouth. This is the fabulist who gave us Cymbeline, King Lear, King Lud who founded London, King Bladud who tried to fly, Old King Cole, Merlin, and King Arthur. And lots of other colourful, lysergic tosh. Hooray for outright fibs and whoppers, that's what I say.
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
Maan Kawas
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
Mark Adderley
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Robyn Ellis
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,
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
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
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
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
Finally got round to reading some more of the Arthurian stuff I've got. Geoffrey of Monmouth's 'history' is probably 90% total fabrication, but it's interesting to read. I really only read it for Arthur, but ended up liking most of it. This Penguin edition is quite good, with decent footnotes, a timeline, and a translation that isn't a chore to read. The introduction is pretty good, too.

Things I found striking about this version of Arthur:
-No sword legend, just straight succession from Uther.
Am I wrong in assuming that this brief chapter on Malgo (XI.7) is intended to be sarcastic? Geoffrey of Monmouth provides this self-contained biography: "Unto him succeeded Malgo, one of the comeliest men in the whole of Britain, the driver-out of many tyrants, redoubted in arms, more bountiful than others and renowned for prowess beyond compare, yet hateful in the sight of God, for his sodimitic vice. He obtained the sovereignty of the whole island, and after many exceeding deadly battles did a ...more
Flint Johnson
Geoffrey cobbled together stories, locations, and politics for his 'history'. The story itself is interesting, focusing on Arthur but extending to the past and future. From the standpoint of an historian, however, it might as well be a poorly researched historical novel. It is nicely constructed, providing the first and best full career of Arthur, and it has subconsciously guided reconstructions of the post-Roman era to the present day. But nothing in there is in any way historical.
Oh, I like this book! The history in it is a bit... strange (yes, there were definitely dragons at the bottom of that lake, I have no reason to doubt your word whatsoever, Geoffrey), but if you let the historical inaccuracies wash over you and treat it more like a saga or epic poem, it's a lot of fun. Geoffrey's Really Obvious Political Bias is so endearing, seriously, as are his passages addressing his sponsors. And the translator's notes are of that particular brand of scholarly snark that I r ...more
Choosing to document the Kings of Britain before the Anglo-Saxon invasion, Monmouth's account is far from a typical history. Beginning with the fall of Troy, Monmouth's characters and tales are vivid, complete with giants, dragons, Merlin, and of course King Arthur. As the first known version of the complete story of King Arthur's life, Monomouth's history is entertaining and instrumental in instigating the still-continuing obsession with Arthur and his adventures.
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
"In one sense, Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain is not exactly what the title claims. It is about the Kings of Britain, but it is not so much a history as a work of historical fiction. (That is, if we consider something akin to a cross between the "Book of Mormon" and Quentin Tarintino's Inglorious Basterds "historical fiction" rather than "alternative history revenge fantasy.") The events and people Geoffrey works into his narrative are so fantastic (the British repeatedly ...more
Some people complain that the battle scenes in "War and Peace" are tedious and too long. I personally don't feel that way, but some people do. If you are one of those people, you will really, really not like this book.

Alongside the amusingly dry narration of interminable back-and-forth conflict between the Britons and the "odious" Saxons, there is an interesting version of the King Arthur legend here that is almost unrecognizably different from the one most of us know. Merlin's Prophecy is hyste
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Mythgard Institut...: Geoff of Monmouth 2 22 May 28, 2012 06:24PM  
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