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William of Malmesbury

c.1090-c.1143. English historian and monk. Educated at Malmesbury Abbey in SW England, he became a monk there and helped to build up the library. He evidently could have become abbot in 1140, but relinquished it in favor of a colleague. Taking Bede* as his pattern, he set out to write English history in a popular form. His Gesta regum Anglorum (record of the kings of England from the end of the sixth century) was published about 1125, closely followed by Gesta pontificum Anglorum (which covered the English Church hierarchy over roughly the same period). His Historia novella, dealing with events after 1126, breaks off abruptly at the end of 1142. His chronology has been at points criticized, but William's work contains interesting anecdotes and perceptive comments and strictures, all presented in vivid and powerful style. He testified to the quality and discipline found in contemporary English monks. Many know his writing only for the striking and much-quoted passage in which he tells of the high moral motives that made men undertake the First Crusade (preached about the time he was born).

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