William of Newburgh
William of Newburgh or Newbury (from ; 1136? – 1198?), also known as William Parvus, was a 12th-century English historian
English historians in the Middle Ages
Historians of England in the Middle Ages helped to lay the groundwork for modern historical historiography, providing vital accounts of the early history of England, Wales and Normandy, its cultures, and revelations about the historians themselves....

 and Augustinian canon from Bridlington
Bridlington is a seaside resort, minor sea fishing port and civil parish on the Holderness Coast of the North Sea, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England. It has a static population of over 33,000, which rises considerably during the tourist season...

, Yorkshire
Yorkshire is a historic county of northern England and the largest in the United Kingdom. Because of its great size in comparison to other English counties, functions have been increasingly undertaken over time by its subdivisions, which have also been subject to periodic reform...



His major work was Historia rerum Anglicarum or Historia de rebus anglicis ("History of English Affairs"), a history of England from 1066 to 1198. The work is valued by historians for detailing The Anarchy
The Anarchy
The Anarchy or The Nineteen-Year Winter was a period of English history during the reign of King Stephen, which was characterised by civil war and unsettled government...

 under Stephen of England
Stephen of England
Stephen , often referred to as Stephen of Blois , was a grandson of William the Conqueror. He was King of England from 1135 to his death, and also the Count of Boulogne by right of his wife. Stephen's reign was marked by the Anarchy, a civil war with his cousin and rival, the Empress Matilda...

. It is written in an engaging fashion and still readable to this day, containing many fascinating stories and glimpses in to 12th-century life. He is a major source for stories of Medieval revenants, those souls who return from the dead, including early vampire
Vampires are mythological or folkloric beings who subsist by feeding on the life essence of living creatures, regardless of whether they are undead or a living person...

 stories, and the only source for the bishop-pirate Wimund
Wimund was a bishop who became a sea-faring war-lord adventurer in the years after 1147. His story is passed down to us by 12th-century English historian William of Newburgh in his Historia rerum anglicarum, Book I, Chapter 24 entitled "Of bishop Wimund, his life unbecoming a bishop, and how he was...


The 19th-century historian Edward Augustus Freeman
Edward Augustus Freeman
Edward Augustus Freeman was an English historian. His reputation as a historian rests largely on his History of the Norman Conquest , his longest completed book...

 expressed the now-outdated opinion that William was "the father of historical criticism". Indeed he was very critical of King John
John of England
John , also known as John Lackland , was King of England from 6 April 1199 until his death...

, whom he describes as "nature's enemy".

Newburgh saw his own work as being based on reliable sources, unlike Geoffrey of Monmouth
Geoffrey of Monmouth
Geoffrey of Monmouth was a cleric and one of the major figures in the development of British historiography and the popularity of tales of King Arthur...

's Historia Regum Britanniae
Historia Regum Britanniae
The Historia Regum Britanniae is a pseudohistorical account of British history, written c. 1136 by Geoffrey of Monmouth. It chronicles the lives of the kings of the Britons in a chronological narrative spanning a time of two thousand years, beginning with the Trojans founding the British nation...

, of which Newburgh was critical, saying "only a person ignorant of ancient history would have any doubt about how shamelessly and impudently he lies in almost everything". He criticized Geoffrey for writing a history that conflicted with the accounts found in the writing of Bede
Bede , also referred to as Saint Bede or the Venerable Bede , was a monk at the Northumbrian monastery of Saint Peter at Monkwearmouth, today part of Sunderland, England, and of its companion monastery, Saint Paul's, in modern Jarrow , both in the Kingdom of Northumbria...


Because belief in souls returning from the dead was common in the 12th century, Newburghs Historia briefly recounts stories he heard about revenant
Medieval revenant
A revenant is a visible ghost or animated corpse that was believed to return from the grave to terrorize the living. The word "revenant" is derived from the Latin word, revenans, "returning", from the verb "revenire"; in French, "revenant" means "coming back", from the verb "revenir", meaning "to...

s, as does the work of Walter Map
Walter Map
Walter Map was a medieval writer of works written in Latin. Only one work is attributed to Map with any certainty: De Nugis Curialium.-Life:...

, his southern contemporary. Although they form a minor part in each work, these folklore accounts have attracted attention within occultism. He also described the arrival of green children
Green children of Woolpit
The green children of Woolpit reportedly appeared in the village of Woolpit in Suffolk, England, some time in the 12th century, perhaps during the reign of King Stephen. The children, brother and sister, were of generally normal appearance except for the green colour of their skin. They spoke in an...

 from "St. Martin's Land" (I.27) and other mysterious, wondrous occurrences. While he says that these have an apparent signification, he does not explain what that meaning might be.

He also composed a lengthy Marian exposition on the Song of Songs and three sermons on liturgical texts and Saint Alban.


  • The History of English Affairs Online excerpts, as part of The Church Historians of England, volume IV, part II; translated by Joseph Stevenson
    Joseph Stevenson
    Joseph Stevenson was an English Catholic archivist.-Biography:Though his parents were Presbyterians, he was educated at University College, Durham under the historian, James Raine, and afterwards at the University of Glasgow...

     (London: Seeley's, 1861). Spelling modernized 1999 by Scott McLetchie.
  • The History of 'William of Newburgh' (1066–1194), Joseph Stevenson (Translator), LLanerch Press, 1996, ISBN 1-86143-013-2, This is believed to be the Seeley's 1861 version as seen above, without Scott McLetchie's spelling updates.
  • Chronicles of the Reigns of Stephen, Henry II and Richard I. Edited by Richard Howlett. Rolls Series
    Rolls Series
    The Rolls Series, official title The Chronicles and Memorials of Great Britain and Ireland during the Middle Ages, is a major collection of British and Irish historical materials and primary sources, published in the second half of the 19th century. Some 255 volumes, representing 99 separate...

     no. 82. London, 1884-9. Books 1-4 of William's history appear in volume 1, book 5 in volume 2. Most recent complete source.
  • The History of English Affairs, Book I (Medieval Latin Texts), by William, P.G. Walsh, M.J. Kennedy, 1988, ISBN 0-85668-304-3, Book I only.
  • The Sermons of William of Newburgh (Toronto Medieval Latin Texts) (English and Latin Edition) Edited by AB Kraebel


Edward Augustus Freeman
Edward Augustus Freeman
Edward Augustus Freeman was an English historian. His reputation as a historian rests largely on his History of the Norman Conquest , his longest completed book...

, Contemporary Review, vol. XXXIII (1878), p. 216.Historia rerum Anglicarum, Book I, Preface, Retrieved Jan. 2005see Medieval revenants#References

External links

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