More chronicles survive for medieval London than for any other medieval British town, a reflection of the city’s civic pride and relatively high rate of literacy. Especially notable is the number of London chronicles written in Middle English during the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. Most London chronicles are annals, with year-by-year accounts of events that start with the election of the mayor in late October, and are often based on previous chronicles with continuations that represent more original content. The main editions (organized chronologically) are noted below, followed by two of the more helpful works of reference about London chronicles.
William Fitz-Stephen, “A Description of London,” trans. H. E. Butler, in F. M. Stenton, Norman London: An Essay, Historical Association Pamphlets 93, 94 (1934), with a contextualizing essay by Stenton, both reprinted in Norman London with an introduction by F. Donald Logan (New York 1990). The oldest version in the original Latin is in Munimenta Gildhallæ Londoniensis: Liber albus, Liber custumarum, et Liber Horn, vol. II, ed. H. T. Riley, Rolls Series, no. 12, vol. 2 (1860), 2-15, on archive.org and Google books. An early translation of a different version is in: “Description of the Most Noble City of London,” in H. Morley, John Stow, A Survay of London, ed. H. Morley (London, 1890), 22-29, on archive.org. Another translation with notes and discussion is available at Florilegium Urbanum. Strictly speaking, this is not a “London chronicle” but an encomium to the city that prefaced William Fitzstephen’s biography of his employer, Thomas Beckett, an archbishop of Canterbury whose murder in the cathedral (by henchmen of King Henry II of England) encouraged William and others to propose him for sainthood. The Description, however, gives many valuable details about the twelfth-century London, albeit embedded in an abundance of classical allusions meant to elevate the tone of the description and thus Thomas’s importance.
Liber de Antiquis Legibus. The ‘Chronica Maiorum et Vicecomitum,’ in Liber de Antiquis Legibus, ed. T. Stapleton, Camden Society, old series, 34 (1846) is the earliest London chronicle; it covers the years 1188-1274/5 and is attributed to Arnold Fitz Thedmar (1201-1274/5), a merchant and alderman of London. The volume also contains other parts of his common-place book. On archive.org.
Chronicles of the Mayors and Sheriffs of London 1188-1274. Chronicles of the Mayors and Sheriffs of London 1188-1274, ed. H T Riley (London, 1863). The volume contains a translation of ‘Chronica Maiorum et Vicecomitum’ attributed to Arnold Fitz Thedmar (see above) and the ‘French Chronicle of London’ (1259-1343); see below. On BHO.
Chronicles of the Reigns of Edward I and Edward II. ‘Annales Londoniensis’ in Chronicles of the Reigns of Edward I and Edward II, ed. W. Stubbs, Rolls Series, vol. 76:1 (London, 1882), pp. 1-251. Written by an anonymous citizen of London (thought by some to be Andrew Horn, chamberlain of the city) who drew on a monastic chronicle compilation called Flores Historiarum (printed in the Rolls Series, vol. 95), but added details about the city of London. His account of the years 1293-1316 (with a lacuna from the years 1301-1307) is completely original. This volume also includes the ‘Annales Paulini,’ (pp. 253-370), another abridgement of the Flores that may have been written by a monk at St Paul’s in London since the writer was more interested in the history of London and the Church than in national history, and also was familiar with ‘Annales Londoniensis.’ The chronicle was later continued to the year 1341; the text for 1307-1341 represents new material.
The French Chronicle of London. Croniques de London, depuis l’an 44 Hen. III. jusqu’ à l’an 17 Edw. III.. from a ms. In the Cottonian Library, ed. George James Aungier, Camden Society, old series, vol. 28 (London, 1844). Covers the years 1259-1343. An English translation is in Chronicles of the Mayors and Sheriffs of London (above). On archive.org.
Gregory’s Chronicle. The Historical Collections of a Citizen of London in the Fifteenth Century, ed. James Gairdner. Camden Record Society, old series, vol. 17 (London, 1876). This Middle English chronicle is considered, with the Great Chronicle (below) to be the best of the London chronicles. The part covering 1440-52 was probably penned by William Gregory, a London skinner and mayor, but someone else likely wrote the section covering 1454-69. The book also includes a poem by John Page on the siege of Rouen and verses by the poet John Lydgate on the kings of England. On BHO.
Chronicles of London. Chronicles of London, ed. Charles Lethbridge Kingsford (Oxford, 1905). Three Middle English chronicles for the periods 1189-1432 (BL Cotton Julius B II), 1415-43 (BL Cotton Cleopatra C IV), and 1440-1516 (Bl Harley 565: the version with the most content on London). The similarity of their texts implies a common Latin original, but their focus diverges after 1414, suggesting that their compilers were then drawing on other materials. On archive.org, with a pdf on the Lollard Society website.
The Great Chronicle of London, ed. A. H. Thomas and I. D. Thornley (London, 1938). Although this Middle English chronicle borrows from many of the same sources as other London chronicles of the fifteenth century, it contains fuller accounts, especially for the period after 1439. Written in two hands, the second section (starting in 1439) is attributed to Robert Fabyan, a London sheriff, alderman, and Master of the Drapers Company, and is considered to be especially valuable for the period 1485 to 1512. Fabyan was also the author of Fabyan’s Chronicle (see below). See also a modernized extract in Henry VII’s London in the Great Chronicle, ed. Julia Boffey (Kalamazoo, 2019).
The New Chronicles of England and France. Robert Fabyan, The New Chronicles of England and France, ed. Henry Ellis (London, 1811). A Middle English chronicle written by a London draper who also served as sheriff and alderman of the city, who called his work ‘Concordance of Histories.’ It was printed seven times and served as a major source for Tudor authors such as John Stow and William Shakespeare. The first six books represent a general chronicle but the seventh book is a London chronicle that starts, as most do, in 1189. On archive.org.
The Customs of London otherwise called Arnold’s Chronicle. The Customs of London otherwise called Arnold’s Chronicle, ed. F. Douce (London, 1811) is a reprint of a book first printed around 1503 in Flanders (without a title), presumably by Richard Arnold, a London haberdasher who regularly traded in Antwerp. A later edition in 1525 brought the coverage up to 1520. It includes copies of London charters and other documents, as well as many miscellaneous items, such as the first English version of the poem, Nut-Brown Maid. On archive.org.
Six Town Chronicles of England. Six Town Chronicles of England, ed. Ralph Flenley (Oxford, 1911). Extracts from five chronicles of London that focus on the fifteenth century, three in Middle English and two in Latin. Includes a long extract from ‘Robert Bale’s Chronicle’ for the period 1437-60; Bale was a London lawyer and judge. On archive.org.
Works of Reference
London’s Middle English Chronicles. Edward Donald Kennedy, A Manual of the Writings in Middle English 1050-1500. XII. Chronicles and Other Writing (Hamden, CT, 1989); see the chapter on “Town Chronicles” and its associated bibliography for a useful discussion and list of London’s Middle English chronicles.
The London Chronicles of the Fifteenth Century. M. R. McLaren, The London Chronicles of the Fifteenth Century: A Revolution in English Writing. With an annotated edition of Bradford, West Yorkshire Archives MS 32D86/42(Woodbridge, 2002). The most recent introduction to London chronicles, with references to manuscripts not known to earlier historians. Also included is an edition of a fifteenth-century London chronicle that shares many sources with other Middle English chronicles of London. See also the review of this book by Ralph Hanna in https://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/review/340 .