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Dark Ages Britain - The Age of Camelot

The sun shone just as brightly during the Dark Ages, and perhaps even more brightly for one brief shining moment, as it has at any other time.

If Arthur lived, as seems likely, at least as a great war leader, it was during the years of chaos and war after Rome withdrew and before the Anglo-Saxons consolidated their gains and brought a new stability to England.

During these years, Ireland flourished under their talented and dedicated Christian monks, keeping the light of learning aflame and producing the most beautiful manuscripts ever made.

We begin with original sources, move to books about dark ages Britain and the historical King Arthur, and finish with books about dark ages and early medieval Ireland (which was their Golden Age).

Buy Books about Britain in the Dark Ages
Ecclesiastical History of the English People
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Ecclesiastical History of the English People
by Bede, translated by Leo Sherley-Price


St. Bede the Venerable wrote his history of the English people (the first, making him the father of English history) in the 8th century. He begins with life under the Romans and progresses through his own time. As a church history, it is filled with marvelous stories of saints and miracles.
Nennius History of the Britons
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History of the Britons
by Nennius


Dating to the late 8th century, Nennius is one of the sources for the King Arthur legends. He also tells the tale of Brutus, founder of the Britons, then moves on, as does Bede, to the Roman invasion and picks up from there. It is thought that he uses a variety of earlier sources and oral tradition.
History of the Kings of Britain
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History of the Kings of Britain
by Geoffrey of Monmouth, translated by Lewis Thorpe


Tells in fuller detail the fantastic stories of Brutus, founder of the Britons, who came to Britain after the fall of Troy. Focuses a great deal on Arthur and Merlin (the first Merlin stories). One of the major Arthurian sources, King Arthur does some pretty amazing things. 12th century fables.
Arthur's Britain by Alcock
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Arthur's Britain
by Leslie Alcock


"Arthur's Britain assembles a wealth of information about the history of Arthur by delving into the shadowy period in which he lived. Drawing on evidence from written and archaeological sources, Leslie Alcock, who directed the famous excavation at Cadbury Castle in Somerset, England, sifts history from fiction to take us back to life between the fourth and seventh centuries. He also provides fascinating detail on how the Britons actually lived, worshipped, dressed, and fought to uncover the real world and people behind the Arthurian legends." - book descriptions. Considered a classic work on the historical Arthur.

An Age of Tyrants
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An Age of Tyrants: Britain and the Britons: AD 400-600
by Christopher A. Snyder


Snyder reviews the written and archeological evidence on Dark Age Britain, and suggests what life must have like during the time period. He offers an appendix on Arthur and Merlin, but sticks with the ambiguity of the evidence and declines to take a stand. Excellent history.
Kings and Queens of Early Britain
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Kings and Queens of Early Britain
by Geoffrey Ashe


Ashe has authored books on Arthur and myth. In this book, he covers the royalty of Britain from the mythical Brutus through Alfred the Great, weaving a fascinating mix of history and myth based on the original sources listed above (Monmouth in particular). A fun read.
Historic Figures of the Arthurian Era
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Historic Figures of the Arthurian Era: Authenticating the Enemies and Allies of Britian's Post-Roman King
by Frank D. Reno


This is Reno's second book attempting to authenticate King Arthur. Placing him in the 5th-6th centuries (I think everyone does now), he minutely examines the historical records of kings of that period (Vortimer, Vitalinus, Cunedda, Cerdic, Octha, and Mordred) and the twelve battles sites, including a new site for Camlann. For Arthur buffs.
The Real King Arthur
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The Real King Arthur: A History of Post-Roman Britannia A.D. 410-A.D. 593
by P.F.J. Turner


Well-researched and very readable history of the times, placing Arthur as Lucius Artorius Castus, a Romano-British military leader. Very plausible, with excellent research and facts to back it up. Worth reading by anyone interested in King Arthur or post-Roman Britain.
Pendragon: The Definitive Account of the Origins of Arthur
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Pendragon: The Definitive Account of the Origins of Arthur
by Steve Blake and Scott Lloyd


"Using half-forgotten sources and clues hidden in the ancient Welsh landscape, historians Steve Blake and Scott Lloyd lead us on an adventure every bit as exciting as the legend itself. Arthur's family tree is traced, his warriors named, and his battlegrounds pinpointed. Blake and Lloyd reveal that Arthur was not the shining Christian king of popular romance - not even, in fact, a king at all - but a fearsome figure known to his followers as, simply, the "Leader of Battles." And they shed new light on one of the greatest mysteries of British history: the location of Arthur's final resting place." back cover.

The authors are the founders of the Centre for Arthurian Studies at the North East Wales Institute and advise and promote one of the world's leading collections of Arthurian material, housed in Flintshire Library HQ. They are currently working with the Welsh Academic Press on a series dedicated to Welsh Arthurian source material.
A History of Wales
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A History of Wales
by John Davies


Welsh historian Davies does his country proud with this history spanning the Ice Age to the present. While accurate in all facts, Davies stresses the struggle of the Welsh people to maintain their identity and culture, and the pride they take in being the original inhabitants of the country.
In Search of Ancient Ireland
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In Search of Ancient Ireland: From Neolithic Times to the Coming of the English
by Carmel McCaffrey and Leo Eaton


Beautifully told and meticulously researched story of Irish civilization from ancient times through the end of the Irish Golden Age. Superbly written, highlights include the author's extensive discussion of Irish technological achievement and innovation, Celtic Christianity with an strong emphasis on Patrick's love for the Irish and respect for their ancient ways, and a clear, compellingly accurate description of the Viking invasions. Highly readable and highly recommended.
How the Irish Saved Civilization
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How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland's Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe
by Thomas Cahill


Well, the story's told now - this book has been a runaway bestseller for ages. Since Rome never took Ireland, and since the Irish preserved Celtic culture while embracing their own powerful and dynamic version of Christianity, they were in an ideal position to achieve their Golden Age while the rest of Europe was drowning in chaos and disorder. A must read.
Early Medieval Ireland 400 - 1200
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Early Medieval Ireland 400-1200
by Daibhi O Croinin


A readable history of Ireland from the fall of Rome through early medieval times, showing the growth and development of Irish culture over the centuries of Christianization, the long occupation by the Vikings, the establishment of cities, and the beginnings of commerce within the greater world.
Land of Women
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Land of Women: Tales of Sex and Gender from Early Ireland
by Lisa M. Bitel


Well-researched history of women in medieval Ireland by a qualified historian. Bitel discusses both the actual circumstances in which women found themselves, and compares and contrasts that reality with their depiction in myth and story.

To see (or read if you can) the original texts of Britain's early histories, visit Full Text Resources for Dark Age History, where you can find the texts in their original Latin or Old English.