Then Arthur Fought
The Matter of Britain 378-634 A.D. Last Modified: 9th March 2016.
Before the King Arthur of medieval Romance, there was, quite possibly, an historical Arthur, battle-leader of the dark-age (5th/6th century) Britons. But between the two was the Arthur of pseudohistory, above all the infamous History of the Kings of Britain, published by Geoffrey of Monmouth in 1137. Although presented, and accepted for centuries, as history, Geoffrey's book is rightly described as a pseudohistory (false history) because of its anachronisms, hyperbole, and blatant contradictions of more reliable chronicles. In Then Arthur Fought, Howard Wiseman recasts the fictional history of Arthur as a quasihistory (as-if-it-were history), by creating a plausible dark-age narrative which is compatible with firmly established history.
Drawing upon more than 250 ancient and medieval texts -- from histories to Romances -- Wiseman mixes in his own inventions to forge a unique conception of Arthur and his times. For the enquiring reader, it is carefully annotated to indicate how every detail has some basis in the sources, or in archaeology and other disciplines. It also puts Arthur's Britain in a broad context. In time, it spans from the 4th century decline of Roman Britain to the 7th century fall of the Britons' last lowland territories to the English. On the globe, the fortunes of love and, more often, war take Arthur throughout Gaul, and his compatriots even farther afield: Gualwain to Denmark, Germany, and Italy; Drustan to Spain; and Peredur to Byzantium.
Illustrated by 20 maps, and with an extensive bibliography, Then Arthur Fought will appeal to anyone interested in the scope of possible histories for dark-age Britain, in the potential roots of medieval Arthurian pseudohistories, or in new frameworks for Arthurian fiction.
A thoroughly convincing contemporary Arthurian document, a long and lavishly detailed fictional fantasia on the kind of primary source we will never have for the Age of Arthur. The whole thing should not work, should fall flat as the driest possible scholarly parlor-game – and yet the thing is soaringly intelligent and, most surprising of all, hugely entertaining.
It is a stunning achievement, enthusiastically recommended.
-- from the Editor's Choice review
by Steve Donoghue, Historical Novel Society Indie Reviews Editor.
Number 5: Then Arthur Fought by Howard M. Wiseman. ... [a] crackerjack novel ... that's rooted firmly in historical fact. The result is like no work of Arthurian fiction ever written ...
a genuinely exciting variation on "counter-factual" alternate narrative, a straight-faced but incredibly readable historical reconstruction of an Arthur who never in fact existed -- but one you’ll end up wishing really had existed, thanks to Wiseman's understated artistry.
-- from SteveRead's Best Historical Fiction of 2016
by Steve Donoghue.
Then Arthur Fought is an extraordinary achievement. ... An absorbing introduction to the history and legends of the period [and] ... a fascinating synthesis.
-- from the Foreword by Patrick McCormack, author of the Albion trilogy.
Download an excerpt for free
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Author's advice for reading the e-book: The pdf can be read fine on a Kindle device (you can email it to your Kindle address). Because the text is rather dense with hyperlinks, it is advisable to turn the page, or scroll down, using a swipe rather than a tap. For iPad or iPhone I recommend reading the pdf on the (non-free) app GoodReader. Many other apps cannot handle the hyperlinks, or do not have a "back button'' for returning to the text from an endnote or whatever. Converting to flowing text will almost certainly mess up the formatting and disable the hyperlinks. For those with smaller devices or poorer eyesight, expanding the text-width to equal the screen-width in landscape mode and locking it there will make reading easier.
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