English Benedictine chronicler; b. in the west country c. 1280; d. March 12, 1363–64. He became a monk of St. Werburg (Chester) in 1299 and supposedly traveled much in England. His principal claim to fame is the Polychronicon, a universal history, some versions of which end in 1327 and others in 1342. Ralph (Ranulph) gives some 40 authorities for his work, which is chiefly a compilation. It is divided into seven books (after the seven days of creation): the first is concerned with geography and the rest with history. The Polychronicon, of which more than 100 MSS survive, was enormously popular and was considered a standard work for more than 200 years. It is of interest as a compendium of medieval ideas on geography, science, and history; not even the small contemporary portion is of much value as a historical source. It was first translated into English (with additions) by John trevisa in 1387; the translation (with a further continuation) was printed by Caxton in 1482.
Bibliography: r. higden, Polychronicon, ed. c. babington and j. r. lumby, 9 v. (Rerum Britannicarum medii aevi scriptores 41; 1865–86). c. l. kingsford, The Dictionary of National Biography from the Earliest Times to 1900, 63 v. (London 1885–1900; repr. with corrections, 21 v., 1908–09, 1921–22, 1938; suppl. 1901–) 9:816–817 for Higden's other works. j. gairdner, England (Early Chroniclers of Europe; New York 1879). j. de ghellinck, L'Essor de la littérature latine au XIIe siècle, 2 v. (Brussels-Paris 1946) 2:264. w. a. pantin, The English Church in the Fourteenth Century (Cambridge, Eng. 1955).
[f. d. blackley]