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In the early 14th century, a new weapon entered the arsenals of European armies. This first generation of black powder weapons put fear into the heart of the enemy and in 1453 Ottoman cannon succeeded in pummelling the once-impregnable walls of Constantinople. But cannons, which are both slow and cumbersome, were difficult to use and often proved inaccurate. The first handgonnes were the answer. Easily dismissed by later historians as nothing more than crude tubes that shot wildly inaccurate lead balls, more recent research has revealed the true accuracy of the medieval handgonne together with its penetrative power. This volume, complete with detailed illustrations and colour photographs of reconstructed handgonnes, reveals the true history of what could easily have been the most revolutionary weapon in history. This book will be a must for medieval enthusiasts and re-enactors.

In "The Axe and the Oath", one of the world's leading medieval historians presents a compelling picture of daily life in the Middle Ages as it was experienced by ordinary people. Writing for general readers, Robert Fossier vividly describes how these vulnerable people confronted life, from birth to death, including childhood, marriage, work, sex, food, illness, religion, and the natural world. While most histories of the period focus on the ideas and actions of the few who wielded power and stress how different medieval people were from us, Fossier concentrates on the other nine-tenths of humanity in the period and concludes that 'medieval man is us'. Drawing on a broad range of evidence, Fossier describes how medieval men and women encountered, coped with, and understood the basic material facts of their lives. We learn how people related to agriculture, animals, the weather, the forest, and the sea; how they used alcohol and drugs; and, how they buried their dead. But "The Axe and the Oath" is about much more than simply the material demands of life. We also learn how ordinary people experienced the social, cultural, intellectual, and spiritual aspects of medieval life, from memory and imagination to writing and the Church. The result is a sweeping new vision of the Middle Ages that will entertain and enlighten readers.

On 13 September 1356 near Poitiers in western France, the small English army of Edward, the Black Prince crushed the forces of the French King Jean II in one of the most famous battles of the Hundred Years' War. Over the centuries the story of this against-the-odds English victory has, along with Crécy and Agincourt, become part of the legend of medieval warfare. And yet in recent times this classic battle has received less attention than the other celebrated battles of the period. The time is ripe for a reassessment, and this is the aim of Christian Teutsch's thought-provoking new account.

The author outlines the development of the undisciplined barbarian war bands of the Dark Ages into the feudal armies of the early Middle Ages. It deals with the arms and equipments of the soldier, not only from surviving specimens but also from descriptions in contemporary medieval documents. Vesey Norman covers the slow development of tactics and the transition of the warrior from a personal follower of a war leader to the knight who served his feudal overlord as a heavily armoured cavalryman in return for land. He details the attitude of the Church to warfare, the rise of chivalry and the development of the knights of the military orders, the Templars, the Hospitallers and the Teutonic Knights. He answers such questions as what classes of men made up the army, who commanded them, and how they were equipped, paid and organized.

A Tale of Two Monasteries takes an unprecedented look at one of the great rivalries of the Middle Ages and offers it as a revealing lens through which to view the intertwined histories of medieval England and France. This is the first book to systematically compare Westminster Abbey and the abbey of Saint-Denis--two of the most important ecclesiastical institutions of the thirteenth century--and to do so through the lives and competing careers of the two men who ruled them, Richard de Ware of Westminster and Mathieu de Vendôme of Saint-Denis. Esteemed historian William Jordan weaves a breathtaking narrative of the social, cultural, and political history of the period. It was an age of rebellion and crusades, of artistic and architectural innovation, of unprecedented political reform, and of frustrating international diplomacy--and Richard and Mathieu, in one way or another, played important roles in all these developments. Jordan traces their rise from obscure backgrounds to the highest ranks of political authority, Abbot Richard becoming royal treasurer of England, and Abbot Mathieu twice serving as a regent of France during the crusades. By enabling us to understand the complex relationships the abbots and their rival institutions shared with each other and with the kings and social networks that supported and exploited them, A Tale of Two Monasteries paints a vivid portrait of medieval society and politics, and of the ambitious men who influenced them so profoundly.

The Ismaili Assassins were an underground group of political killers who were ready to kill Christians and Muslims alike with complete disregard for their own lives. These devoted murderers were under the powerful control of a grand master who used assassination as part of a grand strategic vision that embraced Egypt, the Levant and Persia and even reached the court of the Mongol Khans in far away Qaraqorum. The Assassins were meticulous in their killing. They often slayed their victims in public, thereby cultivating their terrifying reputation. They assumed disguises and their weapon of choice was a dagger. The dagger was blessed by the grand master and killing with it was a holy and sanctified act - poison or other methods of murder were forbidden to the followers of the sect. Surviving a mission was considered a deep dishonour and mothers rejoiced when they heard that their Assassin sons had died having completed their deadly acts. Their formidable reputation spread far and wide. In 1253, the Mongol chiefs were so fearful of them that they massacred and enslaved the Assassins' women and children in an attempt to liquidate the sect. The English monarch, Edward I, was nearly dispatched by their blades and Richard the Lionheart's reputation was sullied by his association with the Assassins' murder of Conrad of Montferrat. The Ismaili Assassins explores the origins, actions and legacy of this notorious sect. Enriched with eyewitness accounts from Islamic and Western sources, this important book unlocks the history of the Crusades and the early Islamic period, giving the reader entry into a historical epoch that is thrilling and pertinent.

Medieval civilization came of age in thunderous events like the Norman Conquest and the First Crusade. Power fell into the hands of men around castles who imposed coercive new lordships in quest of nobility, heedless of the old public order. In The Crisis of the Twelfth Century, acclaimed historian Thomas Bisson asks what it was like to live in a Europe without government, and he asks how people experienced power, and suffered. Rethinking a familiar history as a problem of origins, he explores the circumstances that impelled knights, emperors, nobles, and churchmen to infuse lordship with social purpose. Bisson traces the origins of European government to a crisis of lordship and its resolution. King John of England was only the latest and most conspicuous in a gallery of bad lords who dominated the populace instead of ruling it. Men like him had been all too commonplace in the twelfth century. More and more knights pretended to powers and status, encroached on clerical domains and exploited peasants, and came to seem threatening to social order and peace. Yet as Bisson shows, it was not so much the oppressed people as their tormentors who were in crisis. Covering all of Western Christendom, this book suggests what these violent people--and the outcries they provoked--contributed to the making of governments in kingdoms, principalities, and towns. The Crisis of the Twelfth Century is an unparalleled cultural history of power in medieval Europe, and a monumental achievement by one of today's foremost medievalists.

In Florence cathedral hangs a remarkable portrait by Uccello of Sir John Hawkwood, the English soldier of fortune who commanded the Florentine army at the age of 70 and earned a formidable reputation as one of the foremost mercenaries of the late middle ages. His life is an amazing story. He rose from modest beginnings in an Essex village, fought through the French campaigns of Edward III, went to Italy when he was 40 and played a leading role in ceaseless strife of the city-states that dominated that country. His success over so many years in such a brutal and uncertain age was founded on his exceptional skill as a soldier and commander, and it is this side of his career that Stephen Cooper explores in this perceptive and highly readable study.

In the Middle Ages, the March between England and Wales was a contested, militarised frontier zone, a 'land of war'. With English kings distracted by affairs in France, English frontier lords were left on their own to organize and run lordships in the manner that was best suited to this often violent borderland. The centrepiece of the frontier society that developed was the feudal honour and its court, and in the March it survived as a functioning entity much longer than in England. However, in the twelfth century, as the growing power of the English crown threatened Marcher honours, their lords asserted their independence from the king's courts, and the March became a land where 'the king's writ did not run'. At the same time, the increased military capability of their Welsh adversaries put the Marcher lordships under enormous military and financial strain. Brock Holden describes how this unusual frontier society developed in reaction to both the challenge of the native Welsh and the power of the English kings.Through a multi-faceted examination-political, economic, social, legal, and military-of the lordships of the Central March of Wales, it examines how the 'feudal matrix' of Marcher power developed over the course of the eleventh to thirteenth centuries.

This is the first complete edition of the Chronicon Anonymi Cantuariensis, a contemporary narrative that provides valuable insights into medieval war and diplomacy, written at Canterbury shortly after the mid-fourteenth century. The previous edition, published in 1914, was based on a manuscript from which the text for the years 1357 to 1364 was missing. Presented here in full with a modern English translation, the chronicle provides a key narrative of military and political events covering the years from 1346 to 1365. Concentrating principally on the campaigns of the Hundred Years War and their impact upon the inhabitants of south-east England, the author took advantage of his position on the main news route between London and Paris to provide a detailed account of a crucial phase in British and European history.

The Black Death remains the greatest disaster to befall humanity, killing about half the population of the planet in the 14th century. John Hatcher recreates everyday medieval life in a parish in Suffolk, from which an exceptional number of documents survive. This enables us to view events through the eyes of its residents, revealing in unique detail what it was like to live and die in these terrifying times. With scrupulous attention to historical accuracy, John Hatcher describes what the parishioners experienced, what they knew and what they believed. His narrative is peopled with characters developed from the villagers named in the actual towns records and a series of dramatic scenes portray how contemporaries must have experienced the momentous events.

Offering a fresh interpretation of power structures and political patterns in late Anglo-Saxon England, this book focuses on the family of Ealdorman Leofwine, which obtained power in Mercia, and retained it throughout an extraordinary period of political upheaval between 994 and 1071. The house of Leofwine survived events such as the Viking wars, a palace revolution in 1006-7, and further rounds of political bloodletting during the reign of Æthelred 'the Unready'. It maintained power through Cnut's conquest of 1016, the explosive factional politics of Edward the Confessor's reign, the battles of 1066, and even the first few years of William the Conqueror's reign. Stephen Baxter examines why this family retained power for so long, and why it eventually fell. Offering the first extended treatment of the nature and limits of earls' power, The Earls of Mercia is a reappraisal of the structure of land tenure and the mechanics of royal patronage, and provides a new perspective from which to explore how noble families used religious patronage to strengthen local power structures. Reconstructing pre-Conquest lordship using Domesday evidence, it is the first sustained attempt to explore the relationship between local and national politics,

offering a major new interpretation of the whole structure of the early English kingdom on the eve of its demise.

This is an authoritative guide to the complete range of medieval scholarship undertaken in twentieth-century Britain: history, archaeology, language, culture. Some of the twenty-nine essays focus on changes in research method or on the achievements of individual scholars, others are the personal account of a lifetime's work in a discipline. Many outline the ways in which subjects may develop in the twenty-first century.

Through the lives of individuals, Michael Frassetto enters the dark history of the great medieval heretical movements - the lives of men and women whose ideas and actions had, by the end of the Middle Ages, transformed utterly the religious and political map of Europe. Michael Frassetto's account of five centuries of social and spiritual turmoil is a vivid and telling mix of events, personality and ideas. His cast of characters includes Bogomil, an obscure priest of the Balkan countryside who introduced 'Manichaean' ideas to his parishioners; Henry the monk, the first true heresiarch, who eluded his captors and prepared Languedoc for the Cathars; Valdes the rich merchant who renounced worldly goods to found the movement that would evolve into the Waldensian Church; Pierre Autier, last of the Cathar 'perfects'; and John Wyclif the gentle Oxford scholar who with his disciple the Czech priest Jan Hus - the first disinterred from his grave in an English country churchyard, the other burnt as an urban spectacle - heralded the Reformation. This is history replete with passion, terror and hope, a key to the heart of medieval Europe.

"Women in England in the Middle Ages" looks at 'all sorts and conditions' of women from c.500 to c.1500 A.D., concentrating on common experiences over their life-cycle, as daughters, wives and mothers, and the contrasts derived from their position in the social hierarchy. Most women lived out their lives in their own village or town, but queens and noblewomen exercised power and patronage locally and at the royal court. Religion played a significant part in women's lives; some became nuns and abbesses, while the majority were involved in their own parish and community. Inevitably, women's lives changed over time, but, in bringing up their children and balancing family and work, medieval women faced many of the problems of their modern counterparts.

The reign of King Stephen (1135-54) has usually been seen as uniquely disastrous in the history of the medieval England - a country riven by a civil war between Stephen and his first cousin, the Empress Matilda, and by an anarchy during which barons laid waste the country and 'Christ and his saints slept'. Donald Matthew challenges this picture. By questioning such melodramatic assumptions, and by looking clearly at what can and cannot be known about Stephen, he brings new light to both the king and his reign. He shows that much of what has been written about Stephen has been based on the selective use of the testimony of hostile witnesses, and has been shot through by wishful thinking or by the political or historical prejudices of the day. "King Stephen" is an important, well-written and timely reinterpretation of the crisis of Norman government.

Horses were used for many purposes in Shakespeare's England: for travel, either on horseback or in carriages, for haulage and for pleasure, and for work in the fields. The upper classes were closely involved with horses, for jousting, hunting and racing. Horses was also essential to any army, both as cavalry and to draw supplies and artillery. Horse ownership was, however, much more widespread than might be imagined. "Horses in Shakespeare's England" shows how, in pre-industrial England, horses were bred and trained, what they ate, how much they were worth, how long they lived, and what their owners thought of them. While they were named individually, and sometimes became favourites, many were worked hard and poorly treated, leading to their early deaths. They were, nevertheless an essential part of the life of the time and are strikingly depicted in literature and art, as well in many other records.

The area comprising what became the counties of Cumberland and Westmorland was long disputed, both politically and ecclesiastically, between the English and Scottish kingdoms. The bishopric of Carlisle was the last see in England to be created before the Reformation changes of the 1540s. This latest volume in the English Episcopal Acta series brings together for the first time an edition of all the surviving charters issued by bishops of Carlisle from 1133 until the death of Bishop Ralph de Ireton in 1292. The extant charters provide great insights into the episcopal administration of this border bishopric for the first 150 years of the see's existence. The introduction provides an account of the diocese, the bishops and their households, discussion of the diplomatic aspects and style of the surviving charters and the episcopal seals. Offering fresh insights into this formative period of English history, this volume will be of interest to scholars and students of ecclesiastical, medieval and local history.

This volume collects together the 198 acta issued by Bishops Walter Suffield and Simon Walton of Norwich. The development of the diocese of Norwich is outlined in English Episcopal Acta 6, Norwich 1070-1214. Although the rapid multiplication of houses of monks, canons and nuns which had characterised the century and a half after the Norman Conquest had slackened in pace, the period covered by this volume saw the foundation of two nunneries, Marham and Flixton, and the establishment by Bishop Suffield himself of a major new hospital, St Giles in Norwich.

Medieval History Books - History

Internet Medieval Sourcebook

The Internet Medieval Sourcebook is located at the
Fordham University Center for Medieval Studies.

Sourcebook Contents

The Internet Medieval Sourcebook is organized as three main index pages, with a number of supplementary indices. Each individual section is still large - an organizational goal here is to avoid incessant "clicking" to get between pages and to information.

  • Selected Sources
    This is the main entry to the resources here. It consists of an links to an organized "index of selected and excerpted texts for teaching purposes." For teachers who wish to refer students to the Sourcebook, this page is the best starting point.
  • Full Text Sources
    Full texts of medieval sources arranged according to type.
  • Saints' Lives
    Devoted to Ancient, Medieval and Byzantine hagiographical sources.

1. This project is both very large and fairly old in Internet terms. At the time it was begun (1996), it was not clear that web sites [and the documents made available there] would often turn out to be transient. As a result there is a process called "link rot" - which means that a "broken link" is a result of someone having taken down a web page. In some cases some websites have simply reorganized sub-directories without creating forwarding links. Since 2000, very few links to external sites have been made. An effort is under way to remove bad links.

2. All links to documents at Fordham should be working.

3. Users may attempt to locate texts not currently available, or where the links have changed via The Internet Archive/Way Back Machine. Alternately, a search via Google may locate another site where the document is available.

Supplementary Resources

  • Help!
    A help page, on use of the Sourcebook, for research questions, and on use of the Internet..
  • Selected Secondary Sources
    A Section of the Sourcebook devoted to secondary articles on the subjects covered by the source documents. Its arrangement mirrors that of the primary source pages.
  • Medieval Source Projects
    A Section of the Sourcebook devoted to presentation at this site, or links to other sites, of projects (longer papers, dissertations, theses) which are based on and/or include editions of primary sources.
  • Medieval Legal History
    A Section of the Sourcebook bringing together, and organizing, all the texts on the history of law.
  • Livre des Sources Médiévales
    A Section of the Sourcebook devoted to texts available in French. This section begins life with an ample selection of over 150 etexts from the middle ages until the end of the Ancien Regime. Most are in French, but some are in Latin, Langue d'oc and Langue d'oil. Other texts will be added as they are submitted. Since I read French fluently, but write it with less facility, I welcome collaboration on this part of the project.
  • Libro de fuentes medievales de Internet
    A Section of the Sourcebook devoted to texts available in Spanish. There are only a few available at the moment, but as they are submitted, they will be added. Since I am not fluent in Spanish, I welcome collaboration on this part of the project.
  • The Internet Medieval Sourcebook functions as an expanding publication and respository of texts, not as a website with constantly updated information. For readers looking for such a site it is worth checking out the very well presented and advertising-free Medieval Histories: Nature History Heritage

    A Section of the Sourcebook providing a wide array of public domain, and copy-permitted maps and images.
    A thematically organized guide to over 200 medieval-themed films (until 1999).
  • Listening to Medieval Music
    An extensive guide to the periodization of music from ancient times until the Baroque with an annotated guide to recordings illustrating each period.

  • Courses Using the Medieval Sourcebook
    A list of courses and colleges using the Medieval Sourcebook in its early years, with links to those courses which are online. [Now too many courses use the site in some way for the list to be fully maintained.]
  • The Honor Roll
    The texts in the Sourcebook have come from a number of different sources, printed and electronic. A number of people have helped by allowing use of their translations, or by entering text. See for a roll of honor and thanks.
  • Newly Translated Texts
    Although most texts in the Sourcebook are from 19th and early 20th century translations, a significant number of texts have been newly translated by a number of people for this web project. These texts are all copy permitted for non commercial use, but are not public domain.
  • Desiderata
    The Sourcebook now contains hundreds of texts, but there are still many more to be added. This is a list of top priorities for full text source additions. If you are willing to take on one of these texts, contact me.

Internet History Sourcebooks Project:

The Other Sourcebooks

  • Ancient History Sourcebook
    A companion project to the Medieval Sourcebook - for teachers of Ancient history civilization courses. It covers Pre-History, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Israel, Greece, and Rome.
  • Modern History Sourcebook
    A companion project to the Medieval Sourcebook - for teachers of Modern European history and Modern Civilization courses .

The following Sourcebooks are primarily based on subsets of documents from the three main chronologically arranged collections. They do contain a number of extra links to other websites, and some additional texts.


Historians teaching medieval history surveys almost always want to combine a textbook, a sourcebook, and additional readings. Textbooks, as an ever-evolving form, are probably worth the cost, but sourcebooks are often unnecessarily expensive. Unlike some modern history texts, the sources used for medieval history have been around a long time. Very many were translated in the 19th century, and, as a rapid review of any commercial source book will show, it is these 19th century translations which make up the bulk of the texts. Indeed the genealogy of such texts is a minor area of possible historiographical research. Although publishers need make no copyright payments to use these texts, there is no real cost reduction, compared with sourcebooks for modern history surveys. Many of these nineteenth-century texts are now available on the Internet, or are easily typed in to e-text form.

GOAL: The goal here then has been to construct an Internet Medieval Sourcebook from available public domain and copy-permitted texts. [A few short extracts -abiding by the standard 300 word "fair use" rule may be posted.] The problem with many of the Internet available texts is that they are too bulky for classroom assignment. For instance, all of Pope Gregory I's letters are available, but in one 500 page document. The Internet Medieval Sourcebook then is in two major parts. The first is made up of fairly short classroom sized extracts, derived from public domain sources or copy-permitted translations, the second is composed of the full documents, or WWW links to the full documents.

DOCUMENT SIZE: The size of documents for teaching purposes is an issue. Some commercial selections are composed of very small - paragraph long - snippets from many sources [see for example Deno John Geanakoplos, Byzantium]. Sometimes the documents themselves are short, but for the most part the choice here has been for texts which would be three or more printed pages in length. Such documents allow students to see a larger context, and to escape from being spoon fed.

COVERAGE and SELECTION: After ten years of steady development, the Sourcebook, while continuing to make available a wide range of texts which address elite governmental, legal, religious and economic concerns, now also includes a large selection of texts on women's and gender history, Islamic and Byzantine history, Jewish history, and social history . Although initially the similarity of the contents of a book like Tierney's The Middle Ages and the collections of ninety years ago was striking, this is no longer the case. In its early stages the the main principle of selection here was been availability of texts. This long ago ceased to be the case as editorial desiderata deliberately focused on expanding the number of texts addressing non-elites. Since it is foreseen that there will be a variety of uses for this Sourcebook, the principle of exclusion - necessary for printed material - does not operate. Although many survey classes do not include much discussion of Byzantium and Islam, I have been eager to include material which would be useful for classes which gave these two other successor civilizations of Antiquity equal billing. This is especially the case for Byzantium, which, apart from its own intrinsic interest, provides a parallel case for many western developments.

TEXTS Since these texts come from a variety of printed materials, translators, and sources, they will vary in quality. In particular there may be better modern translations available [for instance for the works of Bede, Froissart, or Joinville.] More modern translations offered with copy permission by modern translators have not been checked, and in some cases could not be, by the compiler of these pages. All the texts are, it seems, suitable for class purposes, but check printed material for any intended publication usage. Caveat emptor!

USAGE: This Sourcebook is specifically designed for teachers to use in teaching. There are several ways that this might be done:-

  • By pointing students to this web site.
  • By downloading the documents, and printing/Xeroxing them for distribution in course packets or as class handouts.
  • By creating syllabi and course outlines at local websites with links to the documents here.
  • [Please DO NOT download and incorporate the texts permanently into your local network websites. The files are updated and corrected: multiple versions on the web makes this difficult to do.]
  • Coulton. C.G., ed, Life in the Middle Ages, (New York: Macmillan, c.1910)
  • Henderson, Earnest F., Select Historical Documents of the Middle Ages, (London: George Bell and Sons, 1910)
  • Ogg, Frederic Austin, ed., A Source Book of Medieval History, (New York: 1907) [Note that Ogg sometimes simplifies translations - he was directing his 500+ page book of sources a students of the "better class" of secondary school!].
  • Robinson, James Harvey, ed., Readings in European History: Vol. I: (Boston: Ginn and co., 1904)
  • Thatcher, Oliver J., and Edgar Holmes McNeal, eds., A Source Book for Medieval History, (New York: Scribners, 1905)
  • University of Pennsylvania. Dept. of History: Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of European history, published for the Dept. of History of the University of Pennsylvania., Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press [1897?-1907?].
    NOTE: The date of inception of the Internet Medieval Sourcebook was 1/20/1996. Links to files at other site are indicated by [At <some indication of the site name or location>]. No indication means that the text file is local. WEB indicates a link to one of small number of high quality web sites which provide either more texts or an especially valuable overview.

The Internet Medieval Sourcebook is part of the Internet History Sourcebooks Project . The Internet History Sourcebooks Project is located at the History Department of Fordham University, New York. The Internet Medieval Sourcebook, and other medieval components of the project, are located at the Fordham University Center for Medieval Studies.The IHSP recognizes the contribution of Fordham University, the Fordham University History Department, and the Fordham Center for Medieval Studies in providing web space and server support for the project. The IHSP is a project independent of Fordham University. Although the IHSP seeks to follow all applicable copyright law, Fordham University is not the institutional owner, and is not liable as the result of any legal action.

© Site Concept and Design: Paul Halsall created 26 Jan 1996: latest revision 20 January 2021

The Medieval Church : A Brief History

The Medieval Church: A Brief History argues for the pervasiveness of the Church in every aspect of life in medieval Europe. It shows how the institution of the Church attempted to control the lives and behaviour of medieval people, for example, through canon law, while at the same time being influenced by popular movements like the friars and heresy.

This fully updated and illustrated second edition offers a new introductory chapter on ‘the Basics of Christianity,’ for students who might be unfamiliar with this territory. The book now has new material on some of the key individuals in church history: Benedict of Nursia, Hildegard of Bingen, Bernard of Clairvaux and Francis of Assisi as well as a more comprehensive study throughout of the role of women in the medieval church.

Lynch and Adamo seek to explain the history of the Church as an institution, and to explore its all-pervasive role in medieval life. In the course of the thousand years covered in this book, we see the members and leaders of the Western Church struggle with questions that are still relevant today: What is the nature of God? How does a church keep beliefs from becoming diluted in a diverse society? What role should the state play in religion?

The book is now accompanied by a website with textual, visual, and musical primary sources making it a fantastic resource for students of medieval history.

Make This List Useful For You

This isn’t a “right way” book list. These books are simply the books that live on the bookshelf during our year of studying the middle ages. I don’t assign them. They don’t have to do any narrations or reports or projects on them. They just read them as the fancy takes them. As homeschooled homeschoolers, my husband and I know this works if the kids are picking them up voluntarily.

Use it as a springboard for your own book lists and for ideas, but always filter it through what works in your own house and with your own individual children. Just filling the bookshelf with good books works for my older two, and I don’t know if it will for the three younger.

The cheapest way (besides receiving hand-me-downs) that I’ve found to get some of these books is library sales. Know at least a few key authors or series and go in to any library sale you can. As libraries get rid of the old books to make way for new, you’re likely to find some gems if you’re willing to look for them. Several of the titles above I scored for a quarter at our local library sale.

Book recommendations for learning about medieval history + culture?

Hello, I've had a big interest in medieval era for a long time and want to start properly researching and learning about it as it is something i've come to love a lot. I will also be joining a local SCA group for re-creation and learning.

I would love to hear about any books you have found good. Bonus points if some of these books are about Knights.

Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts: Twelve Journeys into the Medieval World
by historian Christopher de Hamel. explores the European medieval world through an in-depth study of 12 illuminated manuscripts.

Frances and Joseph Gies have some absolutely stellar books on this time period:

Life in a Medieval Village

Life in a Medieval Castle

I was going to recommend this too. Loved all of them!

Definitely recommend these as well, life in a medieval city came in very handy for my dissertation!

Time travelers guide to medieval England by ian Mortimer is a great place to start for culture.

This is a good one. Also “A Distant Mirror” by Barbara W Tuchman is a good one that focuses on a specific time period in France through the lense of one guys life that was a knight

Honestly that’s quite the big thing, with 1000 years of history and places as diverse as Spain, Russia or the middle East.

I am quite well read on the Iberian Peninsula during the middle ages, specially from the X to XV centuries so that is what I can recommend, I also find this topic to be quite awesome as the central and low medieval ages peninsula was the slow rise into unification and power of the most important and powerful kingdom of Europe during the XVI-XVII centuries. Funnily enough it also had the only truly successful crusade and an incredibly interesting and rich fight to retake the land they considered theirs “de iure” in the case of the christians and the muslims that considered the peninsula “de facto” theirs. Of course this is very simplified and a great part of why medieval Spain is so interesting is the mix of cultures, fighting styles, cultures and the somehow diffuse lines between christians and muslims, specially during the taifas period.

Trust me that I can say medieval Spain is by far one of the most interesting topics on medieval Europe by far, and it is at he same time so underrated, very few people know of Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar “el cid”, one of the great military minds of the middle ages, and one of the very few commanders in the 1000 years of the middle ages to not only fight 6 field battles but also to win every single one of them, all of them with heavy inferiority in numbers and equipment. Even less people know of Alfonso X “The Wise”, one of the single most important judiciary and cultural minds of his time, creating the single most complex and extensive law in medieval Europe till the renaissance and promoting culture, with his book of games, one of he few written records of medieval board games or the “Cantigas de Santa María”, a huge compilation of over 1000 beautifully illuminated and written Cantigas (Poems usually sang along music).

The revival of the secular book trade

For six centuries after Cassiodorus, references to book production outside monasteries are few and hard to interpret. A definite expansion in book production came with the rise of the universities in the 12th century and a revived interest in ancient Greek writings, although these were studied mainly in Latin translation. The universities were located in cities and generated a demand for books. University stationers were established to supply the demand these were controlled by the universities, which framed regulations about the content and size of books and set prices for sale and for rental. The University of Vercelli in Piedmont, Italy, framed such a regulation in 1228, and many similar acts are recorded for other universities. To satisfy the growing demand, the university stationer, unlike the monastic scriptoria, produced multiple copies of works.

There can be no doubt that books were readily exposed for sale in the 14th century. This is evident in Philobiblon, a book finished in 1345 describing the book-collecting activities of Richard de Bury, bishop of Durham. The book relates how the bishop established good relations with stationers and booksellers in England, France, Germany, and Italy by sending advance payments. Evidence from the same century indicates that the stationers were organized in craft guilds in the same way that other trades were organized. A London record of 1357 granted exemption from jury service to writers of text hand (a compressed, angular hand used for the main text of a book). In 1403 the Stationers’ Company of London appealed to the city for the right to have their own ordinances.

Each of these five books offers an admirably clear overview of a different aspect of the medieval knight as a military man. Taken together the picture they present is fairly complete. Each volume, which is illustrated by the author and includes a useful glossary, stands alone and may be read in any order. Accessible to younger readers, yet substantial enough for the adult. Subjects include: Armor, Battle, Castle, Horse, and Weapons.

This gorgeous book focuses largely on the political history of British knights through wars in Scotland, the Hundred Years' War and War of the Roses. In-depth examinations of individuals, battles, warfare and other aspects of knighthood are highlighted by numerous photos of artifacts, castles, effigies and heraldic banners.

Medieval History Books

I was wondering if someone could recommend books or sites from which to get books, about the medieval period.

I'm looking for books relating to medieval life, politics & religion, medieval warfare (training, composition of armies, organization of armies, knights), battles, castles (such as building them, defending them, besieging them) the titles, such as baron, count, etc. and what exactly that entails (such as the land area which they ruled directly, the composition of those lands: villages, towns, cities).

I'm also looking for books about the various kingdoms/empires of that period and other historical events, such as the Muslim conquest of Iberia and their advancement into France, the Reconquista, the various kingdoms, such as the barbarian kingdoms, that replaced the Western Roman Empire.

Basically, i'm looking for books from the fall of the Western Roman Empire/the start of the Medieval Period to the Renaissance.

Edit: I am looking for books to read for pleasure.

I know that the time period and subjects are wide and varied, but at the moment, i can't say i have a good idea about specific time periods/subjects that i would want to delve further into. I will have a better idea, once i read some books.

Hi there, those interested in recommending things to OP! While you might have a title to share, this is still a thread on AskHistorians, and we still want the replies here to be to an r/AskHistorians standard - presumably OP would have asked at r/history or r/askreddit if they wanted non-specialist opinion. So give us some indication why the thing you're recommending is valuable, trustworthy or applicable! Posts that provide no context for why you're recommending a particular podcast/book/novel/documentary/etc, and which aren't backed up by a historian-level knowledge on the accuracy and stance of the piece, will be removed.

Might I suggest the reading list?

Medieval Warfare Source Book, by David Nicolle. These two volumes are a masterful summary of medieval warfare in Europe, the Middle East and the Eurasian Steppes between 400 and 1400 AD, with a substantial summary of Asian warfare as well. It covers every aspect of medieval warfare: recruitment, organisation, strategy, tactics, equipment, fortifications, siege techniques, pay, training, logistics, arms manufacture and trade, etc. While works specific to a particular subject, period or region will still provide much more detailed and nuanced information, Nicolle's Source Book provides an adequate introduction of a massive subject to the first time reader.

The Middle Ages: Everyday Life in Medieval Europe, by Jeffrey L. Singman. Originally published as a textbook for undergrad students, this has now been republished for a general audience. In spite of its textbook origins, the book is an easy read and is filled with pictures and tables of wages and prices to give you a sense of what life looked like and how much things cost in relative terms. Focusing on four different areas (village life, garrison life, town life and monastic life), it provides the best look at general life in the middle ages (specifically 13th century England, but a lot can be applied to North-Western Europe in general) that I've been able to find. With that said, Joseph and Frances Gies do still have some useful and complementary material in their Life in a Medieval. series, and Paul B. Newman's Daily Life in the Middle Ages, Growing Up in the Middle Ages and Travel And Trade In The Middle Ages offer a lot more useful information on the practical side of daily life.

Introductory Medieval History Books

Hi guys. I've recently made it a goal of mine to read more historical nonfiction. I have always been interested in Medieval history, I took a related course in my undergrad, and I have read many historical fiction novels set during that period, but I really don't know much about the factual side of the Middle Ages. I am wondering if any of you have suggestions of nonfiction for someone who's more or less a Medieval history noob.

As mentioned, Ian Mortimer's Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England is an excellent place to start. Then Iɽ suggest Life in a Medieval City Life in a Medieval Castle Life in a Medieval Village and Cathedral, Forge, & Waterwheel all by Joseph and Frances Gies.

It's dense, but *The Inheretence of Rome* is good for the "dark ages"/late antiquity

That is just the “early Middle Ages”, for something more comprehensive I would recommend by the same other, Chris Wickham’s “Medieval Europe 500-1500”

I think A Distant Mirror by Barbara W Tuchman is a beautiful, immersive history if you can accept some supposition.

The middle ages lasted almost a thousand years depending on the dates you subscribe to, it's hard to pick just one all-encompassing intro book.

If you're not a history major/used to history books Iɽ recommend something light like The Time Traveller's Guide To Medieval England by Ian Mortimer. If you are used to history literature you can go a little denser, but you probably need to narrow your search.

A Short History of the Middle Ages by Barbara Rosenwein

Backman: The Worlds of Medieval Europe.

Very fun and easy to read also good enough. I'm a history major and we use it as the base preparation source before classes. You can also rent it online for four months around 20 bucks or so

Came here to say this. It's a textbook that covers the but the decline of Rome, the whole Middle Ages, and the beginning of the Renaissance. Unlike a textbook, though, Backman's personality comes through in witty quips and lively writing. It also has lots of excerpts from medieval sources so you can kinda hear "the voices of the past." It's the best textbook I've ever taught from.

I really enjoy A Distant Mirror by Barbara W. Tuchman. It flows well and gives you lots of insight on especially English and French society of the 14th century.

Another one is The Greatest Knight by Thomas Asbridge and one book named By Sword and Fire about medieval torture but I can't remember the name of the author.

(I tried to pick books that may not have been mentioned yet.)

I think this is a great introductory book: The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England, it covers a bunch of kings over a period of about 300 years.

Gotta love Dan Jones. I’m reading his Wars of the Roses now and I’ll read Plantagenets next. I’ve just finished reading Allison Weirs Wars of the Roses and the Princes in the tower - they were great.

I’m looking for other wars of the roses books as well, since I now find myself totally obsessed with this time period of English history. I’m going to find it hard to leave this time after I finish this book.

Ian Mortimer's books deliver, as do Michael Prestwich's. What takes your fancy? I moved to Wales from England about 20 years ago and was keen to discover the reason behind the . rivalry. That led me to Edward I and the Welsh Wars. From there, I used the monarchs either side as slices of history and worked my way back through the battle of Evesham, the provisions of Oxford, Magna Carta etc. and forwards through Edward II, Bannockburn and the (disputed) method of demise and the masterful Edward III and his sad & lonely end . and so on.

Top Five Foundational Books for Medieval Studies

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I am a medievalist at the University of Oregon, and this coming Fall, I am participating in a small seminar/article workshop. In discussing the plan of action, our two (fantastic) mentors/guides suggested that we come up with an annotated bibliography of the sources we'd used for the papers and about five works we think all medievalists--no matter what time period they cover--should be familiar with. I have my own preferences, but it's an interesting idea and I wanted to see what everyone else thought. I think some of mine are a bit too narrow in focus, and they mostly center on Britain because I am in the English department. The ones I've come up with so far (subject to change) are:


What a wonderful project! I've put your books on my personal to-be-read list and will eagerly await more suggestions.

I note that all five of the works you suggest are by modern historians. Aren't there some books, such as Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, that are also must-reading for medievalists? Or should that be a separate category?


A general book on the history of the plague might be called for, since without the plague, Western Civilization would have evolved differently. The only one that comes to my mind is In the Wake of the Plague by the aforementioned Norman Cantor but I'm sure there are better books out there.

Along the same lines, The Decameron by Boccaccio is a must read for all disciplines, not only for it plague based frame story but also because large pieces of Western Literature were plagiarized from here.


Wow, what a challenging question. I'm in graduate school studying medieval history right now, so it's a good challenge for me to try to answer this. However, how the question is answered is really going to depend on your criteria. Works "all medievalists should be familiar with". Are we looking for the best in current scholarship, for the most important foundational studies, or for the big classics? I suppose that all medievalists should be familiar with Pirenne's Mohammed and Charlemagne, but only because we should know why it's wrong. No one believes the infamous "Pirenne thesis" any more. (If you aren't familiar with the topic, Pirenne suggested that the reason the "Dark Ages" were "dark" is because the wars started by Muslim conquests stopped trade in the Mediterranean. However, scholars have since realized that the Dark Ages weren't really as dark as we once thought, and there is very little evidence that trade decreased in this period - the most famous refutation of the Pirenne thesis is Mohammed, Charlemagne, and the origins of Europe (touchstone doesn't work), but literally hundreds of articles and books have been written that discount Pirenne). C.S. Lewis's book is a classic, and an enjoyable read, but it's also really outdated - scholars just don't agree with Lewis any more. They're both still very important works, but when you read them in graduate school, it's only so that you can understand why everyone now disagrees with them. That's not to say that medievalists shouldn't know about them, but it is to say that they aren't the most current theories.

I'll have to do some more thinking to come up with a list of 5 books all medievalists should know about, and I'll have to think really hard about whether I should only choose books that are current, or if classic books that are no longer current should also count. And margad brings up a good point - should we just include modern books, or should we include medieval ones? I think they belong on two separate lists.


This is an interesting topic. From a somewhat more middle-aged point of view, sometimes we need to read classic works because despite being 'wrong' in their central point or thesis they are often deeply illuminating as well. Also, theories tend to rise and ebb and nonetheless some insight remains.

Just to be clear, I mean to be agreeing with Gwendydd while distinguishing between what is 'safe' to read as a graduate student and what might be more nourishing over the long term. The latter may be harder to discern for a decade or two.


Good points, all. My list was just a starting point, and I think that even if I do include classics that are wrong, I should probably just include one--probably Lewis's.

As for Boccaccio and Chaucer, those would definitely be different categories. What I was asking about was secondary sources, but now it's gotten me to thinking about primary sources, too. So let's break it into two questions (with full knowledge that five primary sources is most likely an unanswerable question, but let's pretend for a little while).

Watch the video: Complete Medieval History through Maps Revision. UPSC CSE 2021. Arti Chhawari. 5 Hours Marathon (May 2022).