Sunday, 8 March 2009

King Arthur - Christopher Hibbert

Reprinted by Tempus in 2007, this is the classic work from the late ‘60s that reignited a popular interest in Arthur and the possibility that he was a historical character. And despite it now being forty years old, this book is still the ideal primer for anyone coming to Arthur and Arthurian literature for the first time. A lot of work has been done since the book first appeared, but much of that has been to refine the basic ideas set out by Hibbert.

The book sets out the legends, the literature and examines the historical record. It shows how the literary heritage expanded and developed (and gives an excellent summary of Malory’s Le Morte D’ Arthur). This is placed against a context of the history of the period in which a real Arthur may have lived, and takes a look at some of the then recent archaeological investigations into the period – most notably at Cadbury.

It would, perhaps, have benefited from a bibliography, allowing readers to take the next step in their exploration of the historical and literary figure of Arthur. And it is a shame that the publisher did not take the opportunity to correct obvious errors of typography and layout. However, this was, and remains, an important work and it is good to see it in print again.