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Historia Norwegiæ

Historia Norwegiæ is a short Latin history of Norway written by an anonymous monk. The only extant manuscript, in the private possession of the Earl of Dalhousie and kept at Brechin Castle, Scotland, is fragmentary; what we have of the Historia is found on folios 1r-12r. The manuscript was once dated to the fifteenth century, but seems now to be from c.1500x1510 (Kunin and Phelpstead 2001, x).

The text itself appears to have been created rather earlier, because it refers to a volcanic eruption and earthquake of 1211 as being contemporary,[1] and Orkney is reported to be under Norwegian rule.

Historia Norwegiæ contains:

  • I. A short geographical survey of Norway and its dominions, followed by a brief history of Norway
  • II. Genealogy of the Earls of Orkney
  • III. Catalogue of the Kings of Norway

The text is important, among other things, because it constitutes (in Latin translation) an independent version of Þjóðólfr of Hvinir's Ynglingatal besides the text in Ynglinga saga in the Heimskringla. It also contains some unique ethnographic detail, including a description of a shamanic séance among the Sami. It is the earliest preserved witness to many of the historical facts it treats.

Along with Ágrip af Nóregskonungasögum and the work of Theodoricus monachus, Historia Norvegiæ is one of the Norwegian synoptic histories. It is thought to have been the first one written, most probably sometime between 1160 and 1175, though debate about this has been extensive and 1220 would be a more conservative terminus. It may have been composed somewhere in eastern Norway.

The manuscript was published by Peter Andreas Munch in 1850 as Symbolæ ad Historiam Antiquiorem Rerum Norwegicarum. The standard edition was for many years that of Storm (1880), and the first translation into English that of Kunin and Phelpstead (2001). A new critical edition and translation appeared in 2003.[2]


  • Ekrem, Inger (editor), Lars Boje Mortensen (editor) and Peter Fisher (translator) (2003). Historia Norwegie. Museum Tusculanum Press. ISBN 87-7289-813-5
  • Kunin, Debra (translator) and Carl Phelpstead (editor), A History of Norway and the Passion and Miracles of the Blessed Óláfr (London: Viking Society for Northern Research, University College London, 2001), available at
  • Storm, Gustav (editor) (1880). Monumenta historica Norwegiæ: Latinske kildeskrifter til Norges historie i middelalderen, Monumenta Historica Norwegiae (Kristiania: Brøgger)
  • Nordisk familjebok [1]
  • Notes and Queries, Issue 56


  1. ^ Katherine Holman. Historical Dictionary of the Vikings. — University of Michigan, 2003, p. 135
  2. ^ "Historia Norvegiæ". 

External links

  • Historia Norvegiae in English Translation and notes by Kunin and Phelpstead (2001).
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