Historia Brittonum ‘The history of the Britons’

  • Latin
  • prose
  • Cambro-Latin texts
Ascribed to: NenniusNennius ... al. Ninnius
(fl. 9th century)
Welsh monk and student of Elvodugus (Elfoddw); best known from the prologue added to the Historia Brittonum, in which he is credited as the author of that work.
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Work in progress
Harleian recension
ff. 174v–190r, 195r–198r
On ff. 190r-195r, the Annales Cambriae (A-text) and the so-called Harleian genealogies are interpolated.
London, British Library, MS Cotton Vespasian D xxi
London, British Library, MS Cotton Vespasian B xxv
Chartres recension
Vatican recension
Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, MS Reg. lat. 1164
Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS lat. 11108
Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS lat. 8048
London, British Library, MS Additional 11702
Nennian recension includes
Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 101
Gildasian recension
Leiden, University Library, MS BPL 20
  • Latin
9th century (original date of composition)
prose (primary)
Textual relationships
Related: Ab Adam usque ad diluuium (Irish tract)Ab Adam usque ad diluuium (Irish tract)Latin tract on the ages of the world.
Historia regum BritanniaeHistoria regum BritanniaeGeoffrey of Monmouth's pseudohistorical narrative of the kings of Britain, from the foundation of Britain to the Anglo-Saxon conquest.Lebor BretnachLebor BretnachMiddle Irish adaptation of the Historia Brittonum ascribed to NenniusLebor gabála ÉrennLebor gabála Érenn
Associated items
Historia Brittonum (Gildasian recension)Historia Brittonum (Gildasian recension)

An abridged recension of the Historia Brittonum, commonly termed ‘Gildasian’ or ‘pseudo-Gildas’ because of its erroneous attribution to Gildas. It is close to the Harleian recension of the text and was in wide circulation during the later middle ages, from the 12th century onwards, so much so that David Dumville has called it the ‘vulgate’ recension.


Cambro-Latin textsCambro-Latin texts



Primary sources Text editions and/or modern translations – in whole or in part – along with publications containing additions and corrections, if known. Diplomatic editions, facsimiles and digital image reproductions of the manuscripts are not always listed here but may be found in entries for the relevant manuscripts. For historical purposes, early editions, transcriptions and translations are not excluded, even if their reliability does not meet modern standards.

[ed.] [tr.] Morris, John [ed. and tr.], Nennius. British history and the Welsh annals, History from the Sources: Arthurian Period Sources, 8, London: Phillimore, 1980.
[ed.] Dumville, David N. [ed.], The Historia Brittonum, vol. 3: The ‘Vatican’ recension, Cambridge: Brewer, 1985.
Dumville, David N., The Historia Brittonum, vol. 2: The ‘Chartres’ recension, Cambridge: Brewer, 1988.

Secondary sources (select)

Dumville, David N., “The historical value of the Historia Brittonum”, Arthurian Literature 6 (1986): 1–26.
Dumville, David N., “On the north British section of the Historia Brittonum”, Welsh History Review 8:3 (June 1977, 1976–1977): 345–354.
Dumville, David N., “II: On the north British section of the Historia Brittonum”, in: David N. Dumville, Histories and pseudo-histories of the insular Middle Ages, 316, Aldershot: Variorum, 1990. 345–354.
Dumville, David N., “St Patrick in the Historia Brittonum: three texts”, in: David N. Dumville, and Lesley Abrams (eds), Saint Patrick, AD 493–1993, 13, Woodbridge: Boydell, 1993. 221–232.
Dumville, David N., “Historia Brittonum: an insular history from the Carolingian age”, in: Anton Scharer, and Georg Scheibelreiter [eds.], Historiographie im frühen Mittelalter, 32, Vienna: Oldenbourg, 1994. 406–434.
Toorians, Lauran, “Over Angelen en Britten. Moreel kwaad als ‘politieke erfzonde’”, in: Cors van der Burg, and Lourens Minnema (eds), In de ban van het kwaad. Het kwaad in religieuze verhalen wereldwijd, Zoetermeer, 2004. 258–269.  
Includes a translation of Historia Brittonum, chapters 36-42 and 47-48.
Also offers several passages in (Dutch) translation.
Dennis Groenewegen
Page created
May 2011, last updated: December 2023