Medieval Sources


copyright 1997-present by Historical Novelists Center

These are the original sources of history in most cases. They can be found in English translation in many different editions, often at the websites that follow the list.

Search for Books at
Search by:


Go To Project GutenbergThe Anglo-Saxon Chronicle ****
Several manuscripts of this survive, the first part being Biblical history, the useful part detailing English events up to 924. In that year, many copies were distributed. That at Canturbury was continued up to 1066, at Worcester to 1079, and up to 1154 in Peterborough. It was researched in or compiled out of older sources, like the Mercian Register, the Northumbrian Gesta, or the Battle of Brunanburh. Several translations are available. T2


The Lay of the Cid ****
translated by R. Selden Rose and Leonard Bacon, and published in Berkeley, California, by the University of California Press in the year 1919 as part of the series entitled Semicentennial Publications of the University of California: 1868-1918. Available at OMACL (see below)
The best of the versions of the grand legend of Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar, relating events from his exile from Castile in 1081 until shortly before his death in 1099. T3

Assorted Anonymous Icelanders

Egils saga, or the Saga of Egil

Eiriks saga rauda, or the Saga of Eirik the Red ***
Composed in the early 1200s, about the settlement in 985 of Icelanders and their voyages to North America, which they called Vinland. While there is a distinct nugget of historical tradition, it is not easy to separate it from literary imagination dressing things up in parts

Gragas, or Grey Goose ****
Preserved in late thirteenth century manuscripts, this law code dates from the twelfth century. While revelatory of Medieval Iceland, to assume the same laws applied all over the Viking world in earlier centuries is like assuming the US had the same laws in 1850 as in 2000. T3

Go To Project GutenbergGrettir the Strong ****

Groenlendingasaga, or the Saga of the Greenlanders ***
Composed in the early 1200s, while it may be based on oral tradition, it is not the best history, allowing a good deal of fancy and disagreeing on many points with the story of Erik the Red. T3

Landnamabok, or The Book of the Settlements ***
A twelfth-century work that survives in later editions, it disagrees with Ari (below) as to who first discovered Iceland. It may largely have been geared to bolstering the land-claims of present holders over challengers. T3

Njalssaga, or the Saga of Burnt Njal ****
Interesting in parts, once it settles into the pattern of the two feuding wives finding followers or relatives to kill a few more of the other's it can get rather boring, especially as the husbands keep meeting at the annual Thing and refusing not to be friends. From its lack of better dramatic structure probably quite historical. It was written down about 1280, and contains mention, as ancestral, the Battle of Clontarf, 1014. T3

Ari, known as Thorgilsson or Frodi

Islendingabok, or The Book of Iceland ****
Written about 1120-1130 by the foster-son of the son of the first bishop of Iceland, this is the best history he could compile from "learned people" of his generation, though the colonization took place from about 870-930. Interestingly, he claims there was a colony of Irish monks who fled the Norse (then pagan) settlers, leaving religious artifacts behind them. Archaeologists can find no monastic remains, and believe that the Irish artifacts were brought to Iceland by the large contingent of Irish-Norse settlers. So either the archaeologists are smoking funny weeds, or Ari could be that far wrong on events. T3

Comnena, Anna

The Alexiad
Valuable for the Byzantine view of the Frankish Crusaders. T2

Joinville, Jean de, and Geoffroi de Villehardouin

Chronicles of the Crusades ****
Penguin Classics, NY
A period description of events, two of those source documents you should read to see what the people at the time thought of their actions, without the filter of later attitudes. Joinville was a participant in the Seventh Crusade, Villehardouin one of the founders of the Latin Empire in the Fourth Crusade, becoming lord of Messina. Can be found separately online. T2

Paris, Matthew
Matthew Paris was a Benedictine monk of some note, who was once summoned to Norway by King Haakon to put an abbey to rights. Estimated to be born about 1200, he continued and to some extent upgraded the Chronicle kept at his home monastery of St. Alban's, taking over from Roger of Wendover. The abrupt end of the Chronicle in 1259 is usually taken to indicate Matthew's death.

The Chronicle of Matthew Paris ****
Most chronicles were written decades or centuries after the fact, but these were put down within a year or two of what they describe, including a rare English earthquake. T2-3

The Illustrated Chronicles of Matthew Paris ****
Alan Sutton, London

The Life of St. Edmund ****
Alan Sutton, London; trans. by C. H. Lawrence; 184 pg
Gives a unique window on England, the Church, and higher education in the 13th century. St. Edmund was not only Archbishop of Canterbury from 1233 to 1240, but a master at Oxford University. T3

Saxo Grammaticus

History of the Danes ****
originally 1208
Not as obsessed with church matters as some chroniclers, those these are still important. Covers from legend to 1202. Early kings fight giants to win their queens, and generally fun reading. T2

Snorri Sturluson

Go To Project GutenbergHeimskringla, or History of the Kings of Norway ****
Also known as "The Circle of the World" Sturluson wrote this about 1230, to reinforce the claims of the Norwegian royal line, by tracing it from legend to 1177. Fifteen sagas of rulers, from the 8th C through the 12th:

Research tier either T1 (get a feeling for the world of saga) or T2 (you're easily confused by unfamiliar cultures not matching what you expect).

Search for Books at
Search by:


Alpamysh dastan ****

This dastan (epic) from Central Asia breaks open a new area of the globe for the medieval reader. Translated by H. B. Paksoy, it is available free of charge (but still under copyright) at Carrie Books.


The Internet Classics Archive: English Language Translations of Classical Texts Online *****!

Each work (play, essay, epic) loads as a single page, making it easy to Search for specific words, and has a Download option. Very large works are available as one page or three, to cut time. Get the "unlimited time for $20" deal from a direct web service with a local access number for you, and you can consider this site part of your home library that doesn't have to be dusted. This is what we all hoped the Internet would be!

Internet Medieval Sourcebook *****!

Halsall is collecting texts in translation, and also providing links to other sites like Berkeley, so as not to duplicate effort. This huge initial page links internally and externally to a list of period works, from the late Byzantine-early Christian age to the early Renaissance. Wonderful source, attractive without glitz, many matrices of approach (e.g., by a topic like women's roles or by a period). Trying very hard to include areas besides the sphere of the Latin church, notably Byzantine and Islamic activities.

Online Medieval & Classical Library ****

Exceedingly large index page takes a long time to load, so you can guess how many entries it has! This is one of those online libraries, with texts in translation, not just a linksite.

To the Central Middle Ages Bibliography

To the Crusades and the Mediterranean Bibliography

To British Isles Middle Ages Bibliography

To Essay on Life for the Upper Classes

To Bibliography of Middle-Tech Skills

Back to Times and Places