British History

Nennius: Historia Brittonum

The Historia Brittonum, or History of the Britons, traditionally ascribed to Nennius, was probably written in the early ninth century. Its account of events in early Britain provided much of material for later Arthurian legend.

Historia Brittonum at Amazon: United States | Canada | United Kingdom | France | Germany | Spain | Italy

Free online texts

Gutenberg: History of the Britons, multiple formats. 

Internet Archive: Six old English chronicles. Ethelwerd's Chronicle. Asser's Life of Alfred. Geoffrey of Monmouth's British history. Gildas. Nennius. And Richard of Cirencester, translated by J. A. Giles. Multiple formats.

Wikisource: Historia Brittonum, Latin text. History of the Britons, English text, translated by W. Gunn & J. A. Giles. HTML format.

Yale Law School Avalon Project: History Of The Britons, translated by J. A. Giles.

Other Resources

Internet Archive: Nennius vindicatus. Über entstehung, geschichte und quellen der Historia Brittonum, by Heinrich Zimmer (1893). German language commentary.

Librivox: History of the Britons - public domain audiobook.

Wikipedia: Nennius - Historia Brittonum.

The Great Conversation: Further reading at Tom's Learning Notes

Gildas: On the Ruin and Conquest of Britain.

Bede: The Ecclesiastical History of the English People.


Bede - Ecclesiastical History of the English People

Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People (Latin: Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum), completed in around 731 AD, describes the conversion of the Anglo-Saxon people of Britain to Christianity over the preceding centuries. The complex relationship between the English and Celtic churches is a key undercurrent of the work. Bede attributes the sufferings of the Britons recounted by Gildas to their failure to evangelise the Anglo-Saxons. He gives more credit to the missionary work of the Irish, but he is ultimately a strong defender of the Roman orthodoxy which triumphed over the customs of the Celtic Church at the Synod of Whitby in 664 AD.

Bede's book is not only the first work of English history, but the first literary expression of the idea of English nationhood. It has always been highly esteemed, even while it is clear that it was shaped by particular theological concerns and by a Northumbrian standpoint, lacking sources notably for the rival kingdom of Mercia.

Bede's Ecclesiastical History at Amazon.com, .uk, .de, .fr, .ca.

Free online texts

Christian Classics Ethereal Library: Bede's Ecclesiastical History of England. Multiple formats.

Gutenberg: Bede's Ecclesiastical History of England, translated by A.M. Sellars. Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: The Historical Works of Venerable Bede; translated by J.A. Giles (1843). Multiple formats.

Internet History Sourcebook: Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation. HTML format.

Latin Library: Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum. Latin text. HTML Format.

Loebulus: L246 - Bede -- Opera Historica I: Books 1-3. Latin and English pdf file.

Loebulus: L248 - Bede -- Opera Historica II: Books 4-5. Lives of the Abbots. Letter to Egbert. Latin and English pdf file.

Online Library of Liberty: The Eccesiastical History of the English Nation (and Lives of Saints and Bishops), translated by Vida Dutton Scudder (1916). Multiple formats.

Wikisource: Historia ecclesiatica gentis Anglorum (Latin text). Ecclesiastical History of the English People, translated by Lionel Cecil Jane (1903). Multiple formats.

Other resources

BBC In Our Time: The Venerable Bede, radio discussion with Melvyn Bragg.

Internet Archive: The Venerable Bede, his life and writings, by G.F. Browne (1919). Multiple formats.

Librivox: Bede's Ecclesiastical History of England - public domain audiobook.

Wikipedia: Bede - Ecclesiastical History of the English People

Bede's Ecclesiastical History at Amazon.com, .uk, .de, .fr, .ca.

Further Reading at Tom's Learning Notes.

Gildas: On the Ruin and Conquest of Britain - A key source for Bede's interpretation of the Anglo-Saxon conquest.

Eusebius - Ecclesiastical History - The ultimate model for Bede's genre of church history.


Gildas - On the Ruin and Conquest of Britain

Gildas' De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae (On the Ruin and Conquest of Britain) is a unique document of post-Roman Britain. Probably composed some time in the sixth century, it is not so much a work of history, as a polemic against various sub-Roman kings, whose impiety and misrule is blamed for the misfortunes of the Britons and the conquests of the Anglo-Saxons. The paucity of documents from this disturbed period of British history mean it is nevertheless an invaluable source.  

Free online texts

Heroofcamelot.com: Gildas' On the Ruin of Britain, translated by J.A. Giles and T. Habington. Creative Commons PDF file.

Gutenberg: On the Ruin of Britain, translated by J.A. Giles. Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: Gildas: The Ruin of Britain, Fragments from Lost Letters, the Penitential, together with the Lorica of Gildas.  Edited for the Hon. Society of Cymmrodorion by Hugh Williams (London, 1899). Latin and English, multiple formats.

Internet Archive: The works of Gildas and Nennius, translated by J.A. Giles (1841). Multiple formats.

KMatthews.org.uk: Gildas de excidio et conquestu britanniae. Latin text, HTML files.

Tertullian.org: The Ruin of Britain, English text edited (translated?) by Hugh Williams (1899). 

Wikisource: The Ruin of Britain (6th century), by Gildas, translated by Thomas Habington and John Allen Giles. HTML file with PDF/EPUB/MOBI downloads.

Other Resources

Internet Archive: Of the Ruin of Britain (De excidio Britanniae) - public domain audiobook.

Internet History Sourcebook: The Life of Gildas, by Caradoc of Llangfarn.

Wikipedia: Gildas - De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae.

The Great Conversation: Further reading at Tom's Learning Notes

Bede: Ecclesiastical History of the English People - relies heavily on Gildas as a source on the Anglo-Saxon invasions.

Nennius: History of the Britons.


George Dangerfield: The Strange Death of Liberal England

George Dangerfield's The Strange Death of Liberal England is the classic account of the many-sided political crisis that threatened to overtake the British political system in the years leading up to the First World War. This encompassed industrial unrest and the rise of the Labour Party, interacting with the Suffragette movement and its overlapping demand for expansion of the franchise, and most fatefully, the Irish Party's demand for Home Rule, opposed by a new and militant Ulster unionism backed by the Conservative Party from their powerbase in the House of Lords.

Free online texts

Hathi.org: The Strange Death of Liberal England by George Dangerfield. New York, H. Smith & R. Hass, 1935.


Tacitus: Agricola

Txu-pcl-maps-oclc-70574898-britannia-1851The Agricola (Latin: De vita et moribus Iulii Agricolae) by Tacitus is a short biography of his father-in-law, the general Gnaeus Julius Agricola. This provides the occasion for an account of Britain and events there during Agricola's governorship. As in the Germania, a much more detailed ethnographic work, Tacitus' portrait of the barbarians is partly intended to throw into relief the decadence of Rome. The clearest example of this is the speech put into the mouth of the Caledonian chieftain, Calgacus, who says of the Romans that 'they make a desert and they call it peace.'

In the Agricola this contrast is given added point by Tacitus' attempt to show that provincial service could be a way to lead an honourable life in the face of the tyranny of Domitian portrayed in the concluding chapters of the work.

The Agricola at Amazon: United States | Canada | United Kingdom | France | Germany | Spain | Italy

Online Texts

Internet Archive: The Agricola and Germania, translated by R.B. Townshend. Multiple formats.

Loebulus. L035 - Tacitus -- Dialogus, Agricola, Germania. PDF of public domain Loeb edition in Latin and English.

Poetry in Translation: The Agricola and Germania, translated by A.S. Kline (2015). Multiple formats.

Wikisource: The Life and Death of Julius Agricola, translated by Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb, 1876. Online, downloadable as PDF/MOBI/EPUB.

The Great conversation: further reading at Tom's Learning Notes.

Tacitus: The Annals.

Tacitus: The Histories.

Tacitus: The Germania.

 Latin Resources: Online materials for learning Latin.


Julius Caesar: Commentaries on the Gallic War

ButlerGaulCaesar's Commentaries on the Gallic War are his account of his campaigns of 58-50 BC. The apparently objective, third person style of the commentaries probably conceals a propaganda purpose - shoring up Caesar's position in the political struggles at Rome which would lead to the conflict with Pompey and the Senate recorded in his later Commentaries on the Civil War.

The Commentaries are notably as a description of Celtic Gaul, and an early account of much of Western Europe. Caesar's campaigns took him across the Rhine into Germany and across the channel into Britain, and often involved diplomatic alliance-building as much as fighting, at least until the general revolt of the Gauls under Vercingetorix which ended with the climactic siege of Alesia. An eighth book, by Caesar's lieutenant, the later consul Aulus Hirtius, covers the period between Alesia and the Civil War.

The Gallic War is often the first authentic text used in introducing students to Latin, much as Xenophon's Anabasis is for Ancient Greek. Some of the free resources below may be useful for that purpose notably the bilingual Loeb and Perseus texts, and the Memrise flashcard app. Dr Butler's 1851 map is still useful for following the narrative.

The Gallic War at Amazon: United States | Canada | United Kingdom | France | Germany | Spain | Italy

 Free online texts

Gutenberg: "De Bello Gallico" and Other Commentaries by Julius Caesar, translated by Thomas De Quincey. Multiple formats.

Gutenberg: C. Iuli Caesaris De Bello Gallico by Julius Caesar. Latin text. Multiple formats.

Internet Classics Archive: The Gallic Wars, by Julius Caesar, translated by W. A. McDevitte and W. S. Bohn. HTML and text formats.

Latin Library: C. IVLI CAESARIS COMMENTARIORVM DE BELLO GALLICO LIBER PRIMVS. Latin text. HTML format.

Loebulus. L072 - Caesar -- The Gallic War. PDF of public domain Loeb edition in Latin and English.

Perseus: Latin text (T Rice Holmes ed., 1914). English translation (McDevitte & Bohn, 1869). HTML texts.

Wikisource: Commentaries on the Gallic War, Online text.

Other Resources

BBC Radio Great Lives: Julius Caesar. Matthew Parris with Barry Cunliffe.

BBC Radio 4 In Our Time: Julius Caesar. Melvyn Bragg with Christopher Pelling, Catherine Steel and Maria Wyke.

Dickinson College Commentaries: Selections from the Gallic War - Latin text, notes, vocabulary, and media for selections from The Gallic War by Julius Caesar, intended for readers of Latin. 

Gallia: Map from Dr. Butler's Atlas of Ancient Geography by Samuel Butler, London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1851.Perry-Castañeda Library
Map Collection.

Librivox: Commentaries on the Gallic War - public domain audiobook.

Memrise: AP Latin Caesar, by billclausen. One of a number of relevant vocabulary courses on the site.

Wikipedia: Commentarii de Bello Gallico

Continue reading "Julius Caesar: Commentaries on the Gallic War" »