'Many tales are told and many legends have been invented about King Arthur and his mysterious ending. In their stupidity the British people maintain that he is still alive. Now that the truth is known......The fairy tales have been snuffed out, and the true and indubitable facts are made known, so that what really happened must be made crystal clear to all and separated from the myths that have accumulated on the subject.' 
Did King Arthur really exist? Does the Arthur that we read of in the ninth-century sources have any link to a real leader of the fifth or sixth century? Was Arthur a powerful king or a Dark Age general co-cordinating the British resistance to Saxon invaders?
In an attempt to answer these perpetual questions The Reign of Arthur: From History to Legend by Christopher Gidlow (The History Press 2004) takes a fresh look at the early sources describing Arthur's career and compares them to the reality of Britain in the fifth and sixth centuries. Gidlow presents, for the first time, both the most up to date scholarship with a convincing case for the existence of a real sixth-century British general called Arthur.
Gidlow carefully examines the source-material for Arthur as far as Geoffrey of Monmouth's "History of the Kings of Britain", and presents a lucid and compelling case for Arthur's historical existence, whilst acknowledging the progressive accretion of folkloric and legendary material around that name.
Detailed analysis of the key Arthurian sources, contemporary testimony and archaeology reveals the reality of fragmented British kingdoms uniting under a single military command to defeat the Saxons. There is plausible and convincing evidence for the existence of their war-leader, and, in this challenging and provocative work, Gidlow concludes that the Dark Age hypothesis of Arthur, War-leader of the Kings of the Britons, not only fits the facts, but it is the only way of making sense of them.
List of Illustrations
Introduction: Who was King Arthur?
Part One: From History
1. In the Reign of King Arthur...
2. Arthur Fought against Them in those Days
3. The Strife of Camlann
4. The Destruction of Britain
5. Tyrants and Kings
6. The King of the Britons
Part Two: Into Legend
7. Arthur's Brave Men
8. Lives of the Saints
9. Geoffrey of Monmouth
10. Arthur, King of Britian
Epilogue: Digging Up Arthur - Glastonbury 1990
Conclusion: The Reign of Arthur?
The first part of The Reign of Arthur, “From History”, examines the source material in chronological order, Gildas, Nennius, the Welsh Annals and such, in the light of the latest historical research the author comes up with several surprising and persuasive insights.
The second part of the book, "To Legend," discusses later, rather dubious, source material, from the Mabinogion to the Saints' Lives through to Geoffrey of Monmouth, including the magical deeds of the legendary Arthur, turning him into a figure first of folklore, then eventually of chivalric romance, adding to our understanding of how Arthur came to be viewed primarily as a figure out of legend.
Christopher Gidlow, an Oxford history graduate and honorary life member of the Oxford Arthurian Society, has his second Arthurian book Revealing King Arthur: Swords, Stones and Digging for Camelot due Publication on 1st May 2010 by The History Press.
1. Gerald of Wales, Speculum Ecclesiae, 1216 - (translated by Richard White in King Arthur in Legend and History) From the Back cover: The Reign of Arthur: From History to Legend by Christopher Gidlow , The History Press 2004.
* * *