British History: Original Sources & Texts

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Sources of British History

Britannia brings you the rich documentary history of England and Wales, so that you can begin to appreciate the foundation on which the present nation stands. Unfortunately, some documents are no longer available to us due to destruction or disintegration, some are not available on the internet and some are not in the public domain. Below, are some of the significant charters, histories, chronicles, accounts, laws and summonses that are now available. They are arranged roughly as they appear in history, from the first century on. As we gain access to more documents of historical interest, we will make them available to you, on this page.
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  • Boudicca's Rebellion, 61 AD
    A contemporary account by the Roman historian, Tacitus, about the nearly-successful British uprising led by Boudicca, Queen of the Iceni.

  • The Confession of St. Patrick
    A statement of faith in his own words (believed to be authentic) of the famous British missionary to Ireland.

  • De Excidio Britanniae, c.540
    Sixth century diatribe written by the monk, Gildas, giving some insight into darkage Britain and the situation that gave rise to the legend of Arthur.

  • Riothamus to the Rescue, 467 AD
    Excerpt from Jordanes' sixth century "Gothic History" telling of a vain attempt on the part of the King of the Britons and 12,000 men to help the Roman Emperor, Anthemius

  • The Battle of Llongborth, c.480
    An English translation of a sixth century Welsh poem, called "Elegy for Geraint," which mentions Arthur.

  • The Coming of St. Augustine
    Account of the coming of Roman Christianity to the island of Britain in 597, by the 8th century historian, the Venerable Bede.

  • Pope Gregory's Letter to Bishop Mellitus
    A letter of instructions to Bishop Mellitus, who was joining Augustine's mission in England, on how to handle the jold religious customs of the newly converted pagans.

  • The Synod of Whitby
    Bede's account of the council in 664, at which the Roman church established its primacy over the Celtic church. At issue was the method by which Easter should be dated.

  • Historia Brittonum
    Nennius' ninth century entertaining, but questionable, collection of the facts, myths and fables covering the early history of Britain. Special emphasis on Arthur.

  • Peace of Wedmore
    Ninth century agreement between the English and Danes, establishing the Danelaw.

  • Asser's Life of King Alfred
    The earliest known biography of Alfred the Great, written by a Welshman from St. David's, who served the king as Bishop of Sherbourne.

  • Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
    Fascinating (and massive) 52-part account of history covering the years 1 through 1154 AD from the point of view of the Anglo-Saxons. This is the COMPLETE TEXT.

  • Annales Cambriae, c. 970
    The tenth century Annals of Wales containing two interesting references to King Arthur, which have been taken by some to be proof of his historicity.

  • The Battle of Hastings, 1066
    William of Malmesbury's description of William of Normandy's conquest of England

  • Laws of William the Conqueror
    The civil laws instituted by the new King William I and his barons for control of their new land.

  • William II, Rufus
    Peter of Blois' description of the Conqueror's son, from a twelfth century chronicle.

  • Henry I
    Excerpt from a contemporary chronicle illuminating one of the great medieval kings.

  • The Charter of Henry I
    The document on which Magna Carta was based.

  • King Stephen
    Henry of Huntingdon documents the unfortunate reign of Stephen, the worst king England ever had.

  • Constitutions of Clarendon, 1164
    Henry II's attempt to reestablish royal prerogatives after the disastrous reign of Stephen.

  • Assize of Clarendon, 1166
    Concerns the establishment of judicial procedure in order to check the power of the baronage, in the reign on Henry II.

  • Inquest of Sheriffs, 1170
    Henry II's correction of the abuses of power by the sheriffs who, under the weak rule of King Stephen, were servants of the local barons. rather than the crown.

  • Life of Thomas Becket
    An account written by Gervase of Canterbury

  • Death of Thomas Becket
    An account of Becket's final days written by Gervase of Canterbury

  • Henry II and Becket
    A largely objective account of Henry II's struggles with his recalcitrant Archbishop of Canterbury by William of Newburgh

  • "Martyrdom," The Death of Thomas Becket
    An emotional account of the attack on Becket's life in Canterbury Cathedral told by Edward Grim, a man who stood by him and nearly lost his own life in the process

  • Life of St. Godric, 12th Century
    Reginald of Durham's life of a medieval merchant who became a saint, giving some insight into the economy of the middle ages.

  • The Norman Conquest of Ireland, 12th Century
    Gerald of Wales' charitable account of the Norman Marcher Lords' activities in Ireland.

  • The Exhumation of Arthur's Body, c.1190
    Gerald of Wales' two eye-witness accounts, separated by twenty years in time, describing the digging up of King Arthur's grave at Glastonbury Abbey.

  • King John's Concession, 1213
    The document in which John makes Pope Innocent III the overlord of England.

  • Magna Carta, 1215
    The great charter of liberty, signed by King John, which proved to be the foundation of personal rights and freedoms now enjoyed in the UK and the US.

  • The Rebellion of Simon de Montfort
    A skeptical contemporary account of the rebellion against Henry III by Matthew of Westminster.

  • The Charter of St. Patrick
    A phony 13th century document, attributed to St. Patrick but actually concocted by the monks of Glastonbury Abbey to prove their primacy over the neighboring See of Bath and Wells.

  • Manumission of a Villein, 1278
    A document releasing one William of Wythington from his bonds of legal servitude.

  • Summonses to Parliament, 1295
    Three separate summonses (one to churchmen, one to barons and one to men of the shires) from Edward I to the parliament of 1295.

  • Conformatio Cartarum, 1297
    Document written in the reign of Edward I, confirming the principles of Magna Carta.

  • Ordinance of Labourers, 1349
    Edward III's vain attempt to freeze the wages of labourers to their pre-Black Death levels.

  • Statute of Labourers, 1351
    The equally vain attempt to enfore the Ordinance of Labourers.

  • The Prophecy of Melkin
    Prophecy, attributed to a fifth century pagan Celtic bard, allegedly fortelling the location of Joseph of Arimathea's grave at Glastonbury.

  • Battles of Crecy and Poitiers
    Accounts of two of the major battles of the Hundred Years War.

  • Peasant's Revolt, 1381
    A contemporary account of the meeting between Richard II and Wat Tyler, the leader of the Peasant's Revolt.

  • Joan of Arc's Letter to Henry VI, 1429
    The letter sent by Joan to King Henry VI while he was laying siege to the French city of Orlean, during the Hundred Years War.

  • Archbishop Cranmer on Henry VIII's Divorce, 1533
    Thomas Cranmer's interesting letter to Ambassador Hawkyns on the subject of Henry's divorce from Catherine of Aragon and his marriage to Anne Boleyn.

  • John Leland's "Itinerary," 1530-40
    The Tudor scholar's account of his visit to South Cadbury, Somerset, and its association with the legend of King Arthur.

  • Hentzner on Elizabeth I, 1598
    Fascinating description of Elizabeth I and life at the Royal Court in Greenwich, from a contemporary German visitor.

  • Petition of Right 1628
    Important document setting out the rights and liberties of the common English subject.

  • Bill of Rights, 1689
    The document confirming the principles of "The Glorious Revolution" of 1688, including free speech, parliamentary supremacy and Protestant succession.

  • Proclamation of Rebellion, 1775
    George III's response to the unrest in the American Colonies.

  • Edmund Burke, Speech on Conciliation with America, 1775

  • Contract between the King and the Thirteen United States of North America, 1783

  • The Munich Pact, September 29, 1938

  • Chamberlain's "Peace for Our Time," September 30, 1938

  • The Atlantic Charter, August 14, 1941

  • The Yalta Conference Agreement, February 11, 1945

  • The Sinews of Peace, Winston Churchill

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