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Guy Halsall Worlds of Arthur - Facts & Fictions of the Dark Ages A Review

Updated on September 16, 2017
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Lyn loves to read fiction and non fiction and share her passion for reading. With a love of many genres of fiction, there's a lot to share.

Author | Source

Fascinating Book Because.....

I know I am not alone in having an interest and fascination in the stories of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table as well as the folklore and myths of Medieval Britain.

About the Author

Guy Halsall BA and DPhil (York)

Professor Halsall has been a professor of history since 2003 and gained his doctorate studying history and archaeology about the history of the region of Metz (being north eastern France and southern Germany) between C 350 and C 750 and his research paper is published: Settlement and Social Organization: The Merovingian region of Metz (Cambridge, 1995).

Halsall has published works on a broad range of subjects including Barbarian migrations, Medieval cemeteries, historical warfare and violence and... even humour. At the back of the book it says that this book brings him back to the study of early-medieval British history and archaeology where his scholarly story began.

Book Cover
Book Cover | Source

The Book

In Worlds of Arthur, Halsall takes looks at the stories and seeks out the proof and the proof or lack of is astounding. His aim is to set the record straight to explore and discover the truth about King Arthur and his time.

Halsall is well placed to undertake such a task, there is so much folklore about Arthur and Halsall quickly points out that much of it is not just decades apart, but hundreds of years apart. Actions credited to Arthur could not all have been the same man. There are myths and folklore attributed to Arthur from the 5th, 6th and 7th Centuries.

So, painstakingly Halsall researched the few ancient written works, delved into the archaeological evidence and searched for the truths that could be proven.

This book is a journey of exploration, a study of ancient Britain and Europe and a fascinating insight into one of our most well loved ancient characters.

Controversially Halsall dispels many other works based on the legends although he does take the trouble to explain why. He states there have been many books claiming to be about the ‘facts’ about Arthur, but there is little or no reliable proof to support these works. Indeed this scholar points out that in many cases there is a tendency among authors to be selective in their sources to make the interpretations fit with their pre-conceived theories.

Halsall’s book is fascinating, honest and carefully supported by evidence and where the evidence is scant he says so. Very early on in the book the question is considered did Arthur exist at all? Is there any truth in the myths and legends about the ancient King? Whilst Halsall seeks proof of a genuine time when Arthur lived he makes it clear that this is a difficult task. Therefore, what this book does is give us honesty about this ancient character. Halsall is very careful to lead the reader in such a way that he dispels any preconceived ideas and seeks the truth. Equally, he does not expect us to reach any conclusions based on our preconceived ideas or those laid out before us.

Towards the end of the book Halsall explores DNA and grave goods and this gives us fascinating insight into the world of historical research and he makes much of the Saxon migration into the British Isles too.

The reviewer read the book through from cover to cover and believes this is the best way to really enjoy and benefit from this book. Although, due to the reference style layout it is easy to access information and ‘cherry pick’ should the reader wish to do so? However, read it through and return to find the snippets you need or found interesting later, it is fascinating and easy to follow.

Contrary to what is often said the difference between academic and amateur writers of history is not that the academics think they know it all; it is that they know they don’t know it all.

— Halsall Guy

Oxford University

Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University’s objective of excellence in research scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide. Oxford is a registered trademark of Oxford University Press in the UK and in certain other countries.

Hard Copy Facts

The version of the book I have is hardback and measures 9 ½ x 6 ½ inches (24 x 161/2 cm). Worlds of Arthur Facts & fictions of the Dark Ages was 1st published in 2013 By Oxford University Press and was printed at St Ives, UK. Oxford University Press id a department of the University of Oxford and that it has been produced by the great Oxford University in Britain adds kudos to the information it provides.

Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University’s objective of excellence in research scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide. Oxford is a registered trademark of Oxford University Press in the UK and in certain other countries.

The ISBN of the book I have is 978 0 19 965817 6.

As the book is created by a scholarly establishment this ensures that it is well laid out and individual information is easy to find. Before the reader reaches the main body of the book there is a preface, acknowledgements, contents page, abbreviations and list of figures.

The 16 plates (photos) in the center of the book are all black and white and the figures are mostly diagrams, maps and chronological information are also all in black and white.

The main body of the book leads to 307 pages and at the rear there is a fascinating list and briefings on further reading material. The Bibliography shows how well researched the book is and runs to 19 pages and this is followed by photographic acknowledgements and 15 pages of index.

UK Cover price £20.00, Amazon £16.59, £8.96 Kindle

USA price Cover Price $24.95, Amazon $18.81 and Kindle $6.81


This is a fascinating book, well researched, well written and the style is easy and friendly to follow. It seems that in this book Halsall has left no stone unturned in his quest for the truth. Thoroughly interesting and thought provoking.


Halsall G, (2013), Worlds of Arthur Facts & Fictions of the Dark Ages, ed 6, St Ives, Oxford University Press, p 144.

Open University Academic, photo from website.

Oxford University Press publisher.

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© 2017 Lyn


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    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 5 months ago from Norfolk, England

      That looks like an interesting book. I find books like this interesting, so will consider getting this, thanks. =)