Inventing Æthelstan: William of Malmesbury's twelfth century construction of a tenth century king

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


The abbeys of Post­-Conquest England produced numerous histories and chronicles attempting to make sense of an Anglo­-Saxon past alien to a rapidly evolving Anglo­-Norman culture. It was in this milieu that William, a monk of Malmesbury abbey, wrote the Gesta regum Anglorum in the early twelfth century. William’s history chronicles events between 449and 1120 and provides the most significant extant account of the life of the tenth century king Æthelstan (r. 924 – 939); notably recording an otherwise unknown plot to blind the newly crowned Anglo­-Saxon king. By examining this alleged plot, this paper explores the transmission of late Anglo-­Saxon history through the chronicles of post­-Conquest Anglo-­Norman authors. It argues that such narratives, though embedded within wider Anglo­-Saxon histories, evidence intrinsically local historiographical influences upon their writing.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes
Event11th Conference of the Australian Early Medieval Association: Space and Time in the Early Medieval World - Medieval and Early Modern Centre, The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
Duration: 11 Feb 201612 Feb 2016


Conference11th Conference of the Australian Early Medieval Association
Abbreviated titleAEMA
Internet address


  • Medieval
  • Anglo Saxon culture
  • Post­ Conquest England
  • Anglo­ Norman culture
  • King Æthelstan


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