Project News

January 2013: We are pleased to announce the publication by Oxford University Press of The Oxford Handbook of Holinshed's Chronicles, edited by Paulina Kewes, Ian W. Archer, and Felicity Heal, an important collection of forty interdisciplinary essays.

August 2011: We are pleased to announce that with the support of a grant from the Marc Fitch Fund we have annotated chapters 1-11 of the 1587 version of William Harrison's Description of Britain. This work has been undertaken by Dr Henry Summerson, and we hope it will be a model for future scholarly enhancements to the site.

August 2010: The contributions to the Oxford Handbook to Holinshed's Chronicles are coming in on schedule, and we hope that the volume of forty essays will be published next year.

September 2009: The parallel text version of Holinshed's Chronicles is now available online, allowing you to compare the two editions of 1577 and 1587, and to navigate by the original chapter headings and by regnal years. This resource makes use of the TEI Comparator Tool developed by the Research Services Team at the Oxford University Computing Services.

September 2009: New content on website. Dr Summerson has completed his analysis of the sources underlying the Chronicles.

June 2009: New content on website. More Holinshed sources analysed.

April 2009: An important discovery. A lost Anglo-Saxon text embedded in the Chronicles. Further details.


Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland was at once the crowning achievement of Tudor historiography and the most important single source for contemporary playwrights and poets, above all Shakespeare, Spenser, Daniel, and Drayton. Popularly known as Holinshed's Chronicles, the work was first printed in 1577. The second, revised and expanded, edition followed in 1587. In both its incarnations, the Chronicles was a collaborative venture. Among the authors and revisers were moderate Protestants (Raphael Holinshed, John Hooker), militant Protestants (William Harrison, Abraham Fleming), crypto-Catholics (John Stow), and Catholics (Richard Stanihurst, Edmund Campion). The upshot was a remarkably multi-vocal view of British history not only because of the contrasting choices of style and source material but also because the contributors responded very differently to the politics and religion of their own age.

The importance of Holinshed's Chronicles for the understanding of Elizabethan literature, history, and politics cannot be overestimated. Yet despite the recent growth of interest in the chronicle tradition, the politics of historiography, and the uses of the past by imaginative writers which has led, for instance, to a proliferation of studies of Foxe's 'Book of Martyrs' and an impressive online edition, Holinshed's Chronicles has not properly benefited from this scholarly re-awakening. The vast scope of the book, and the lack of a complete scholarly edition, has meant that it has eluded systematic analysis. With one or two exceptions such work on Holinshed as we've got centres on the sections dramatized by Shakespeare.

Our aim is to stimulate a comprehensive reappraisal of the Chronicles as a work of historiography and a major source for imaginative writers. That goal can only be realised when the text becomes accessible in a complete old-spelling annotated edition, and last year Oxford University Press commissioned us to produce one. The pilot project we are currently working on involves preparing a basic parallel-text electronic edition of the 1577 and 1587 versions of Holinshed which will make possible a detailed comparison between them. We expect to mount the parallel-text edition on this website by the end of 2008 alongside other scholarly resources for the investigation of Holinshed. Other plans include an interdisciplinary workshop on Holinshed's Chronicles to be held in January 2009; the Oxford Holinshed Handbook, a collection of essays totalling approx. 360,000 words on the making, transmission, reception, appropriation, and literary and historical significance of the Chronicles; and Oxford World's Classics Selections from Holinshed's 'Chronicles', a modernised edition for student and non-specialist readership.

By making the findings of our pilot project freely available to the wider scholarly community, we hope to furnish an essential tool for a scholarly reassessment of this exceptionally important and unfairly neglected book.

The editors thank the Bodleian Library for the provision of images from the 1577 Holinshed.