The records of the British past were handed down through oral tradition (in the
form of trained bards, who specialised in memorising such material) and only a small part
of this oral tradition was ever committed to writing.
Furthermore, the distinction modern
readers automatically make between history and literature was by no means so clear-cut.
Add to this all the misty problems of sources and dating, or of authors' intentions in
writing their works, and the interpretation of such texts as now exist have become a
This is immediately apparent when studying the first
and most substantial account of Arthur's deeds in the Welsh records, an entry in the book
of about the year 829 which was entitled Historia Brittonum, The History
of the Britons. It is often - but
apparently wrongly - ascribed to a certain Nennius. 
This is far from being a history; a later editor thought
that the author had "piled together everything [he] could find", and what can
really be discovered from it concerns the culture and traditions of the Welsh people in
the late eighth and early ninth century, which is the period at which it was put together.
It is an attempt to explore the Welsh past, but its author is not writing in what would
now be considered an historical manner; there is no real chronology, and little attempt is
made to examine the sources critically such as can be detected in his Anglo-Saxon