William of Malmesbury

‘The pleasure of books possessed me from childhood’ wrote this twelfth-century historian. Among other work, William of Malmesbury, writes J.J.N. McGurk, produced an Historia Novella, extending until 1142.

The monastery of Malmesbury in Wiltshire, founded by the Irish monk, Meildub or Maelduin, teacher of St Aldhelm, became noteworthy among the Benedictine houses of England in the first half of the twelfth century when William its historian resided there, writing history of a nature and scope that justified his claim to be true successor of Bede, and that, too, in the critical eyes of later historiographers.

Unfortunately for the biographer, William of Malmesbury left few facts of his personal life and even these have to be gleaned from his casual comments throughout his many books and pieced together with the few incidental references made to him by those who borrowed from his histories later in the twelfth century. Leland, the sixteenth-century antiquary, who did so much to save the medieval history of England for the modern age bewailed the fact that, even at Malmesbury, they had almost lost all remembrance of their illustrious writer.

To continue reading this article you will need to purchase access to the online archive.

Buy Online Access  Buy Print & Archive Subscription

If you have already purchased access, or are a print & archive subscriber, please ensure you are logged in.

Please email digital@historytoday.com if you have any problems.