Twelfth Century English Historical Writing 12th-Century English Historical Writing
(With thanks to John Gillingham, whose Birkbeck course on the above provided the basis for this bibliography)
The twelfth century in England saw the production of an extraodinary number of historical texts, from the small scale (see Jocelin's history of Bury) to history on a grand scale (such as those of William of Malmesbury); from predominantly sober treatises (like that of William of Newburgh) to discursive and outrageous entertainments (the phenomenally successful Geoffrey of Monmouth, and Gerald of Wales). In fact the breadth of historiography compiled and invented in twelfth century England almost defies consideration as a unified corpus of texts. In terms of quantity it is difficult to give sufficient attention to each; in terms of historiographical approach the texts reflect the diversity of authorship and purposes for which they were written.
The bibliography is predominantly insular in its outlook, and avoids texts produced in the vernacular (such as Gaimar's Estoire des Engleis) and in Normandy (by authors such as Orderic Vitalis and William of Jumièges), for no reason other than my own lamentable lack of knowledge in these two areas. The list is also skewed towards my own particular research interest, William of Malmesbury.
An invaluable starting point is Antonia Gransden's 1974 survey of historical writing, a work which has set the scholarly agenda for this period of historiography. Gransden's book is particularly valuable for an understanding of the amount of historical writing in the twelfth century, just part of which is covered by the bibliography below.
This bibliography has been provided by Sandy Vaughan at the University of Cambridge. Please see our Cambridge Contacts page for details regarding his research and for his contact information.
Posted 6th October 2004

Editions of primary texts
translations are given separate to the edited Latin text except when both are provided within the same volume.
Eadmer: Eadmeri Historia Novorum in Anglia ed. M Rule (London, 1884) translation: Eadmer's History of Recent Events in England ed. G Bosanquet (London, 1964)
William of Malmesbury: Gesta Regum Anglorum ed. & trans. R Mynors, eds. R Thomson & M Winterbottom 2 vols (Oxford, 1998-9)
William of Malmesbury Gesta Pontificum ed. NESA Hamilton (London, 1870)
Recently translated as The Deeds of the Bishops ed. & trans. David Preest (Cambridge, 2002)
Henry of Huntingdon: Historia Anglorum ed. & trans. Diana Greenway (Oxford, 1996)
Geoffrey of Monmouth: The Historia regum Britannie of Geoffrey of Monmouth 5 vols. eds. N Wright & J Crick (Cambridge, 1985-91) vol I for edition of the text
Translated in Penguin Classics edition, The History of the Kings of Britain trans. L Thorpe (London, 1973)
Gerald de Barri, Giraldi Cambrensis Opera eds. JS Brewer, JF Dimock & GF Warner, 8 vols (London, 1861-91)
See also the English translations:
The History and Topography of Ireland trans. J. O'Meara (Harmondsworth, 1982)
The Journey through Wales: Description of Wales trans. L Thorpe (Harmondsworth, 1978)
Richard of Devizes The Chronicle of Richard of Devizes ed. & trans. JT Applebey (London, 1963)
William of Newburgh: Historia rerum Anglicarum ed. R Howlett, 2 vols (London, 1884-85)
Book One translated in: The History of English Affairs ed. & trans. PG Walsh & MJ Kennedy (Warminster, 1988)
Jocelin of Brakelond: in Vol I of Memorials of St Edmund's Abbey ed. T Arnold (London, 1890-6)
See translation in Oxford World Classics: Chronicle of the Abbey of Bury St Edmunds trans. D Greenway & J Sayers (Oxford, 1989)
Selected secondary texts
J Barrow, 'How the Twelfth-Century Monks of Worcester Perceived their Past' in Paul Magdalino (ed.), The Perception of the Past in Twelfth Century Europe (London, 1992)
R Bartlett, Gerald of Wales (Oxford, 1982)
M Brett, 'John of Worcester and his contemporaries' in RHC Davis & JM Wallace-Hadrill (eds), The Writing of History in the Middle Ages (Oxford, 1982)
J Campbell, 'Some twelfth-century views of the Anglo-Saxon past' in his Essays on Anglo-Saxon History (London, 1986), 209-28
M Clanchy, From Memory to Written Record (2nd edn., Oxford, 1993)
G Constable, The Reformation of the Twelfth Century (Cambridge, 1996)
A Cooper, ' "The feet of those that bark shall be cut off": Timorous Historians and the Personality of Henry I', Anglo-Norman Studies 23 (2001), 47-68
J Crick, 'St Albans, Westminster and some twelfth-century views of the Anglo-Saxon past' Anglo Norman Studies 25 (2003), 65-83
DH Farmer, 'William of Malmesbury's life and works', Journal of Ecclesiastical History 13 (1962), 39-54
J Gillingham, 'The context and purposes of Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain', Anglo-Norman Studies 13 (1990), 99-118
J Gillingham, The English in the Twelfth Century (Woodbridge, 2000)
J Gillingham, 'Civilizing the English? The English histories of William of Malmesbury and David Hume' Historical Research vol. 74 no. 183 (Feb 2001), 17-43
A Gransden, Historical Writing in England c. 550 to 1307 (London, 1974)
A Gransden, 'Prologues in the historiography of twelfth-century England', in England in the Twelfth Century, ed. D Williams (Proceedings of the 1984 Harlaxton Symposium: Woodbridge, 1990), 55-81
A Gransden, Legends, Traditions and History in Medieval England (London, 1992)
D Greenway, 'Authority, Convention and Observation in Henry of Huntingdon's Historia Anglorum', Anglo Norman Studies 18 (1996), 105-22
A Hastings, The Construction of Nationhood: Ethnicity, Religion, and Nationalism (Cambridge, 1997)
F Ingledew, 'The Book of Troy and the Genealogical Construction of History: The Case of Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia regum britanniae', Speculum vol. 69 no. 3 (Jul. 1994), 665-704
S Keynes, 'The declining reputation of King Aethelred the Unready' in Hill (ed.), Ethelred the Unready (Oxford, 1978), 227-53
E Könsgen, 'Zwei unbekannte Briefe zu den Gesta Regum Anglorum des Wilhelm von Malmesbury', Deutsches Archiv für Erforschung des Mittelalters 31 (1975), 204-14
M Otter, Inventiones. Fiction and Referentiality in Twelfth-Century English Historical Writing (Chapel Hill, 1996)
N Partner, Serious Entertainments. The Writing of History in Twelfth-Century England (Chicago, 1977)
I Short, 'Tam Angli quam Franci: Self-definition in Anglo-Norman England' Anglo Norman Studies 18 (1995), 153-75
RW Southern, St Anselm and his Biographer: A Study in Monastic Life and Thought 1059-c. 1130 (Cambridge, 1963)
RW Southern, 'The Place of England in the Twelfth-Century Renaissance' History 1960, reprinted in his Medieval Humanism (Oxford, 1970)
RW Southern, 'Aspects of the European Tradition of Historical Writing: 4. The Sense of the Past', Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 5th series, vol. 23 (1973), 243-64
G Spiegel, The Past as Text. The Theory and Practice of Medieval Historiography (Baltimore, 1997)
G Spiegel, ‘Theory into Practice: Reading Medieval Chronicles’ in E Kooper (ed), The Medieval Chronicle (Amsterdam, 1999), 1-12
RM Thomson, 'England and the Twelfth-Century Renaissance', Past and Present 101 (1983), 3-21
RM Thomson, William of Malmesbury (Woodbridge, 1987, revised ed. 2003)
E Van Houts, 'The memory of 1066 in written and oral traditions', Anglo-Norman Studies 19 (1996), 167-79
JO Ward, 'Classical rhetoric and the writing of history in medieval and renaissance culture', in F McGregor & N Wright (eds.), European History and its Historians (Adelaide, 1977), 1-10
JO Ward, ‘Some Principles of Rhetorical Historiography in the Twelfth Century’ in E Breisach (ed), Classical Rhetoric and Medieval Historiography (Kalamazoo, 1985), 103-165
A Williams, The English and the Norman Conquest (Woodbridge, 1995)
N Wright, 'William of Malmesbury and Latin poetry', Revue Bénédictine 101 (1991), 122-53
N Wright, ' "Industriae Testimonium": William of Malmesbury and Latin poetry revisited', Revue Bénédictine 103 (1993), 482-531

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