William of Newburgh

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William of Newburgh,

1136?–1198?, English chronicler, monk of Newburgh, Yorkshire. He wrote the Historia rerum Anglicarum, a history of England from 1066 to 1198. Its chief value lies in the commentary on contemporary events, particularly its analysis of the causes and effects of the anarchy under King Stephen.


See the translation of the history by J. Stevenson in his Church Historians of England, Vol. IV (1856).

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William of Newburgh (1136–1198?)

(pop culture)

William of Newburgh, twelfth-century British chronicler of vampire incidents, was born in Bridlington. As a youth he moved to a priory of Augustinian Canons at Newburgh, Yorkshire. He became a canon and remained at Newburgh for the rest of his life. His talents were noticed by his superiors, who urged him to devote his time to his scholarly pursuits, especially literature. He emerged as a precursor of modern historical criticism and strongly denounced the inclusion of obvious myth in historical treatises.

William’s magnum opus, the Historia Rerum Anglicarum, also known as the Chronicles, was completed near the end of his life. Chapters 32–34 related a number of stories of contemporary revenants, which William had collected during his adult years. These stories, such as the account of the Alnwick Castle vampire and the Melrose Abbey vampire, have been cited repeatedly as evidence of a vampire lore existing in the British Isles in ancient times. While not describing vampires as such, the stories do recount visitation by the dead, some of whom were reported to act in a manner similar to the vampires of the Slavs or the vampires in eastern Europe. William was careful in his reporting and was aware of the skepticism that would greet the stories even in his own day. Thus he concluded,

It is, I am very well aware, quite true that unless they were amply supported by many examples which have taken place in our own days, and by the unimpeachable testimony of responsible persons, these facts would not easily be believed, to wit, that the bodies of the dead may arise from their tombs and that vitalized by some supernatural power, they speed hither and thither, either greatly alarming or in some cases actually slaying the living, and when they return to the grave it seems to open to them of their own accord (chapter 34).

William died at Newburgh in 1198 (or 1208).


Glut, Donald F. True Vampires of History. New York: HC Publications, 1971. 191 pp.
Summers, Montague. The Vampire in Europe. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1929. 329 pp. Rept. New Hyde Park, NY: University Books, 1961. 329 pp.
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