In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Welsh Literature

  • Introduction
  • Bibliographies of Celtic Literature
  • Guides and Surveys
  • “The Writers of Wales” Series
  • Prose

Medieval Studies Welsh Literature
Frederick Suppe
  • LAST REVIEWED: 22 April 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 April 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0084


The Welsh language is descended from a P-Celtic language which was spoken over much of pre-Roman Britain and which persisted during the period of Roman control. After the Roman withdrawal during the 5th century, this language experienced a significant amount of grammatical change, and by c. 600 AD may be labeled as Early Welsh or Archaic Welsh. For the period when the first texts in vernacular Welsh appeared, between the 9th and mid-12th centuries, the language is called Old Welsh. Middle Welsh refers to the stage of the language between the mid-12th century and the mid-15th century. Among the Celtic countries, the amount and variety of extant literature from medieval Wales are exceeded only by that in Irish from Ireland. This is probably because, although Wales was not a united polity during this period, it did share a common linguistic culture and maintained political independence until it was militarily conquered by the English king Edward I late in the 13th century. Even after this conquest, Wales remained predominantly Welsh speaking and with a class of Welsh gentry who were patrons for a profusion of poets, whose work is only now being subjected to systematic scholarly analysis.

Bibliographies of Celtic Literature

Although there are six Celtic languages—Breton, Cornish, (Scottish) Gaelic, Irish, Manx, and Welsh—the bulk of literature extant from the medieval period is in Irish and Welsh. Bromwich 1974, Matonis 1985, and Matonis and Rittmueller 1990 are good sources for specialized studies on many medieval Welsh items. The online Celtic biography by the Celtic Studies Association of North America is regularly revised and strives to be comprehensive.

  • Bromwich, Rachel, ed. Medieval Celtic Literature: A Select Bibliography. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1974.

    Includes items published through 1972 and provides thoughtful annotations. Especially strong on Welsh and Irish items.

  • CSANA Celtic Studies Bibliography.

    The CSANA online bibliography is searchable and incorporates items listed in the publications of 1985 and 1990. It is regularly revised to include new items. All of the bibliographies prepared under CSANA sponsorship emphasize material relevant to the medieval period but also include items pertaining to other periods.

  • Matonis, Ann, ed. A Celtic Studies Bibliography for 1983–1985. Philadelphia: Celtic Studies Association of North America, 1985.

    Emphasizes items pertaining to the ancient, medieval, and early modern periods. Includes separate sections for the language and literature of each of the six modern Celtic countries, followed by sections for history, art and archeology, and folklore.

  • Matonis, A. T. E., and Jean Rittmueller, eds. A Celtic Studies Bibliography for 1986–1988. Cincinnati: Celtic Studies Association of North America, 1990.

    Organized in similar fashion to the 1983–1985 bibliography, this also includes an index of authors cited and provides references to scholarly book reviews for many of the items listed.

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