Matthew Paris' English History


Very little is known about Matthew Paris. He was a monk of St. Alban's Abbey, and was probably called Parisiensis, the "Parisian", which we generally interpret "Paris", from having been born or educated in the capital of France. Unlike most of the monks of the Middle Ages, who seldom were content to pass through life without bequeathing to posterity a weighty load of theological works, and commentaries on the Bible, Matthew Paris seems to have confined his attention wholly to the study of history, and, with a laudable patriotism, to the history of his own country. To this circumstance may be ascribed the pains which he took, even after his great work was completed, to improve it in every way, and to gather fresh stores from every available source.

This work begins at the year 1235, where Roger of Wendover's work leaves off and extends to its termination in 1273, about which time, probably, its original writer departed this life. In 1259 the style of the History changes as another monk of St. Alban's takes over. The text is less detailed, and less authoritative, as well as not possessing the excellent writing style of Matthew. The text includes the following acknowledgment:

"It should be known that hereto this work has been written by the venerable brother Matthew Paris, and although the handwriting may vary, yet as the same style of composition is observed, the whole is ascribed to him; but what is hereafter written and added, is to be attributed to another brother, who presumed to attempt, and unworthily to carry out, the work of his great predecessor, although he was not worthy to unloose the latchet of his shoe and his name even is not mentioned in this book".

This version of the English History is a translation into English from the French translation of the original Latin, and is in three volumes, the final volume including Matthew's Additamenta:-

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