Richard Barber

Richard William Barber FRSL FSA FRHistS (born 1941) is a British historian[1] who has published several books about medieval history and literature. His book The Knight and Chivalry, about the interplay between history and literature, won the Somerset Maugham Award, a well-known British literary prize, in 1971. A similarly-themed 2004 book, The Holy Grail: Imagination and Belief, was widely praised in the UK press,[2][3][4][5] and received major reviews in The New York Times[6] and The New Republic.[7]

Richard William Barber
Born1941 (age 7778)
SubjectMiddle Ages
Medieval literature

Barber has long specialised in Arthurian legend, beginning with the general survey, Arthur of Albion (1961). His other major interest is historical biography: he has published Henry Plantagenet (1964) and a biography of Edward, the Black Prince, Edward Prince of Wales and Aquitaine (1978). Recent biographical books are Edward III and the Triumph of England: The Battle of Crécy and the Order of the Garter (2013), which includes a reappraisal of the origins of the Order, and Henry II in the Penguin Monarchs series (2015).

His latest book is The Prince in Splendour (2017), a study of the role of festivals and feasts in the courts of medieval Europe looking at the events which such occasions celebrated and the organisation which lay behind them.


Barber was educated at Marlborough College and Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. In 1969 he founded The Boydell Press, which later became Boydell & Brewer Ltd, a publisher in medieval studies, and acted as group managing director until 2009. In 1989, Boydell & Brewer Ltd, in association with the University of Rochester, started the University of Rochester Press in upstate New York. In 2016, the directors of Boydell & Brewer Ltd transferred the company into a trust for the benefit of the employees. He was visiting Professor in the history department at the University of York from 2013 to 2016, and was awarded an honorary doctorate there in 2015.

Select bibliography

  • Arthur of Albion: an introduction to the Arthurian literature and Legends of England (Barrie & Rockliff with Pall Mall P, 1961).
  • The Knight and Chivalry (London; 1970).
  • The Figure of Arthur (London: Longman, 1972).
  • King Arthur: in Legend and History (Boydell Press, 1973).
  • Edward, Prince of Wales and Aquitaine (London; 1978).
  • Life and Campaigns of the Black Prince (1979).
  • The Arthurian Legends: An Illustrated Anthology (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1979).
  • Legends of Arthur (The Boydell Press; 2001) ISBN 0-85115-837-4
  • The Holy Grail: Imagination and Belief (London: Allen Lane & Harvard University Press; 2004). ISBN 978-0-674-01390-2
  • The Holy Grail, The History of a Legend (Penguin Books Ltd; 2004).
  • The Reign of Chivalry (2nd Ed. UK: The Boydell Press; 2005) ISBN 1-84383-182-1
  • Edward III and the Triumph of England: The Battle of Crécy and the Order of the Garter (London: Allen Lane, 2013)
  • Henry II (Penguin Monarchs) (London: Penguin Books, 2015).
  • The Prince in Splendour (London: Folio Society, 2017)
  • Edited and introduced by Richard Barber: Myths & legends of the British Isles (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1999).


  • with Juliet Barker: Tournaments: Jousts, Chivalry and Pageants in the Middle Ages (Woodbridge: Boydell, 1989).


  1. Sumption, Jonathan (February 28, 2004). "Review: The Holy Grail by Richard Barber". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 August 2012.
  2. Sumption, Jonathan (February 28, 2004). "Review: The Holy Grail by Richard Barber". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 August 2012. Richard Barber has written a valuable and agreeably sensible account of the literary origins of the grail legend, as well as its subsequent fortunes. He is a serious scholar and a brave man, who is not afraid of making enemies, and has trodden on plenty of scholarly corns as well as a fair number of unscholarly ones. This is not a contentious or argumentative book. It bangs no drums and blows no trumpets, but begins and ends with the evidence.
  3. Armstrong, Karen (February 2, 2004). "Elusive reality: The Holy Grail: imagination and belief, Richard Barber". New Statesman.   via HighBeam (subscription required) . Archived from the original on June 11, 2014. Retrieved 2013-07-12. My heart sinks on the all-too frequent occasions when I am invited to review a book about the Holy Grail. The subject has recently inspired some very silly fantasies and conspiracy theories, in which authors try to demonstrate the "secret truth" of Christianity or claim to have discovered the Grail in the cellar of their family home. Richard Barber, however, has written a serious and useful history of the Grail legend, which should dispel some of the more lunatic theories.
  4. Arditti, Michael (January 16, 2004). "Hot on the trail of the elusive Grail; Books ON FRIDAY: Critic's choice". Daily Mail (London). Retrieved 2013-07-12 via Questia Online Library.
  5. Sullivan, Will (January 2005). "Paperbacks—The latest paperbacks reviewed". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 2014-06-11. Retrieved 12 July 2013. Barber succeeds, through historical examination and solid storytelling skills, in making this work as imaginative and interesting as its subject  via HighBeam (subscription required)
  6. Kakatuni, Michiko (February 20, 2004). "Review: A Cup at the End of the Rainbow". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
  7. Jenkyns, Richard (October 4, 2004). "Review: Tempest in A Cup". The New Republic. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
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