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The History of the Kings of Britain

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  4,936 Ratings  ·  192 Reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 373 pages
Published January 27th 1977 by Penguin Books (first published 1138)
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Very odd, but popular medieval English work it survives in a (relatively) large number of manuscripts and is mostly fictional.

It is an entirely remarkable book coming from a remarkable place, from the edge of Norman rule it creates or assumes a new identity, rooted in the mythical past of Wales but looking deep into mainland Europe. Britain is the island of immigrants, but Merlin provides an autochthonous voice - naturally evil advisors try to trick the king into murdering him, but the boy merl
David Sarkies
Feb 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: myth
Rule Brittania
14 February 2018 – Siem Reap

Maybe I should have written my review on A Farewell to Arms on Valantine's Day as opposed to some semi-mythological text about a bunch of British kings that probably never existed, but then again I've never been a big fan of Valantine's Day, especially when I started working only to discover that in an office environment you suddenly have this huge competition among the ladies as to whose partner loves them the most (based on the biggest bunch of flower
Liz Janet
Jan 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
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.
Jul 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"... 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
Michael Dworaczyk
Apr 15, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Mark Adderley
May 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 23, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Maan Kawas
Dec 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Justin Evans
Jan 14, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, history-etc
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
Lindsey Sparks
Dec 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned-and-read
I don't know why we still debate how Stonehenge was formed because Geoffrey clearly explains that giants brought stones from Africa to Ireland and built it, then Merlin magicked them over to England because of their healing powers when you bathe under them with water that runs over the stones. Obviously. I had wanted to read this for years because Shakespeare uses it as a source for story ideas (King Lear, Cymbeline) and it has the first written King Arthur story. I thought it would be kind of d ...more
Mark Adderley
May 23, 2009 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
Apr 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I really thought I wouldn't like this, as it sounded just like a boring pseudo-history book; instead, I loved it, and while it was a slow read, it was also incredibly fascinating.
May 20, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The other day a coworker left some sort of snack out for everyone to share, in a bowl on the counter in the office kitchen. I thought it looked like caramel popcorn. I put one piece in my mouth, and was sorry I had. Not sweet. Not light. Not caramel popcorn. Something dense and fibrous and earthy tasting. Blech.

I later asked her what it was, and she said it was hazelnuts coated in cinnamon and other spices. After that -- my expectations properly adjusted -- I learned that one of those nuts every
Mar 06, 2017 rated it liked it
Geoffrey of Monmouth's "history" tells the story of the Britons from 1000 BCE until 600CE.

Although many of the events appear unlikely to have happened, and although many of the historical players were characterised by Geoffrey himself - or completely invented, there's notable merits to Geoff's imaginative yarn. Brutus' saga is interesting, especially his descendants' stories where Locrinus, Kamber and Albanactus divide the land into Loegria (Lloegyr/England), Kambria (Wales) and Albany (Scotlan
Apr 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Книга из серии Литературные памятники и это ее очень украшает.
Много пояснений, замечательное предисловие, раскрывающее контекст и предшественников автора. Читать едва ли не интересней книги :)
«История Бриттов»
Уже не Летопись Ненния, еще не позднесредневековая литература Мэлори. Временами продолжается бесконечное и неинтересное перечисление правителей бриттов, происходящих от Брута. Временами же появляются и осмысленные (оставим за скобками насколько правдивые) истории – впервые столь подробно ра
Apr 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: school-books
I really enjoyed learning about the mythos of King Arthur and the legends and kinds that came before him and shaped his reign. Seriously, if you are at all into King Arthur and you want context on how these legends came about, pick this book up, it is worth the read.

In addition to this, I would read Pseudo-Ninnias' Historia Brittonum, Gildas' The Ruin of Britain, and Bede's Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum. They will all help to understand all of the source material for the Arthurian Roman
Marjorie Jensen
I (re)read this for my Arthurian U.C. Berkeley TA-ship. I had previously read excerpts about Merlin and Arthur in anthologies/course readers, but this time I read all twelve books of the 1718 edition.

Unsurprisingly, I can't seem to find this edition on Goodreads, and between my U.C. Berkeley job and my new job at the GTU, it will be a little while until I have the time to add it. I wish Goodreads didn't heavily favor new releases and people who read mostly brand-new books. Perhaps it's difficul
Roslyn Ross
Mar 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
My six-year-old says, "I loved it!" He says this book was better than the Hobbit, but not quite as good as Lord of the Rings or Black Ships Before Troy. But really good. Really really good, he says.

I also enjoyed it a lot. Perfect book for a young boy.
לחובבי היסטוריה בריטית - אנגלית וחובבי היסטוריה אירופאית עם נגיעות כלליות
Austin Hoffman
I couldn't get into the story. It was interesting to see where Shakespeare got at least one of his plays.
Joseph R.
Oct 07, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history, read_2016
Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote this fictionalized version of English history that starts with the Trojan War. Aeneas flees from Troy and founds Rome. His great grandson Brutus leaves Italy and eventually founds Britain. The book covers a vast range of time, from the fall of Troy in the 1100s B.C. to circa A.D. 700. He covers a lot of ground, much of it mythical or at best historically dubious. The highlights for me were his passages about King Lear (as in the character from Shakespeare's excellent p ...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
Dec 03, 2015 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
Oct 26, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arthurian, history
This can't be called history, but it's a fun romance. There's the tale of how ancient Britons are really displaced Trojans. The tale of King Lear, but with a happier ending (at least for Lear). The most important story, of course, is the tale of Arthur. The "history" is nonsense, of course, but it's great to read the first written account of the Arthurian legend. Much of the tale as we know it today--Uther falling in love with the Duke of Cornwall's wife, Igraine, and his seduction/rape of her w ...more
Nov 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arthurian-saga
Love this long and detailed narrative. There are so many ways to describe how kings fight and kill each other XD
My favourite quote:
After him succeeded Malgo, one of the handsomest of men in Britain, a great scourge of tyrants, and a man of great strength, extraordinary munificence, and matchless valour, but addicted very much to the detestable vice of sodomy, by which he made himself abominable to God.
Pity Geoffrey of Monmouth didn't pay Malgo as much attention as he did king Arthur, though. I b
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.
Alberto Martínez
Nov 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cómo me enloquece toda la onda artúrica, por favor. Es increíble. Aguante Merlín igual. Y Vortigern el de las fechorías.
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Mythgard Institut...: Geoff of Monmouth 2 25 May 28, 2012 06:24PM  
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Geoffrey of Monmouth (Latin: Galfridus Monemutensis, Galfridus Arturus, Welsh: Gruffudd ap Arthur, Sieffre o Fynwy) (c. 1100 – c. 1155) was a Welsh cleric and one of the major figures in the development of British historiography and the popularity of tales of King Arthur. Much of his work is considered to be pseudo-history.

He is best known for his chronicle Historia Regum Britanniae (History of th
More about Geoffrey of Monmouth

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