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Old 01-21-2007, 01:20 PM
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Recommend medieval history books. Actually, any good history book.


I've been playing "Medieval II: Total War" lately, and as always happens, I'm starting to get interested in the Medieval time period, particularly Franch and England (dude, the French were bad ass until Waterloo). When I was playing "Rome: Total War" I was really interested in ancient Greece.

But yeah, overall, I'm a history nerd and I can find any European or American history book interesting. So yeah, although my original intent was for medieval history, if you know any good books about Napolean (I know next to nothing), colonial history, or either revolutions, I'm all ears.

Thank you.
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Old 01-21-2007, 01:47 PM
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A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century by Barbara Tuchman is pretty readable. It follows the life of a French nobleman whose father-in-law was the King of England. I've read one copy to tatters and replaced it!
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Old 01-21-2007, 10:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheez_Whia
A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century by Barbara Tuchman is pretty readable. It follows the life of a French nobleman whose father-in-law was the King of England. I've read one copy to tatters and replaced it!
Huh. I came into this thread to recommend that book, and the only response pre-empted me. So anyway, consider that recommendation seconded.
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Old 01-21-2007, 10:34 PM
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It will have to wait until tomorrow morning, when I can peruse the shelves of my classroom. Can you narrow the area any? I have about 30 shelf-feet of books on European history.

Last edited by silenus; 01-21-2007 at 10:34 PM.
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Old 01-21-2007, 11:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheez_Whia
A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century by Barbara Tuchman is pretty readable. It follows the life of a French nobleman whose father-in-law was the King of England. I've read one copy to tatters and replaced it!
Dammit, you beat me to it also. While all of her books are worth reading, this one is fantastic.
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Old 01-22-2007, 12:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by silenus
It will have to wait until tomorrow morning, when I can peruse the shelves of my classroom. Can you narrow the area any? I have about 30 shelf-feet of books on European history.

Honestly, I know so little about that time period that I still don't know what I'm interested most of all. Basically, whatever you're interested in the most.
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Old 01-22-2007, 01:37 AM
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My favorite medieval history book is The New Penguin Atlas of Medieval History by Colin McEvedy. It's not detailed, but it provides an excellent overview of the period through a series of maps that show the ebb and flow of all the major political powers over a thousand years.

Most of Professor McEvedy's other historical atlases are also wonderful. There are four that cover Europe (The Penguin Atlases of Ancient, Medieval, Modern, and Recent History) as well as one for North American and one for Africa.

The only disappointment in the series is the Penguin Atlas of Pacific History. The scale of the map makes it difficult to read. It would have been a much more effective if it had concentrated exclusively on Asia and ignored Polynesia and North America.
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Old 01-22-2007, 03:54 AM
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I couldn't remember who wrote The Sunne in Splendour but having Googled, apparently it was Sharon K Penman. It's another take on the life of Richard III from his boyhood until his death, and gives an interesting angle on him and on the Wars of the Roses. Not much of an international aspect, though.
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Old 01-22-2007, 05:24 AM
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Sharon Kay Penmen's books about Richard 3, Llewellyan the Great, King John are pretty good reads. But they are fiction based on historical facts.

In a Dark Wood Wandering by Hella Haasse is another historical fiction book about the Middle Ages(France)
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Old 01-22-2007, 05:32 AM
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An easy and fun read, but not necessarily very historically accurate, are the detective series by Ellis Peters featuring the medieval monk and herbalist Brother Cadfael.
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Old 01-22-2007, 05:45 AM
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• The Age of Faith: A History of Medieval Civilization — Christian, Islamic, and Judaic — From Constantine to Dante: A.D. 325-1300, by Will Durant.
• Warfare in the Medieval World, by Brian Todd Carey.
• Fighting Techniques of the Medieval World: AD 500–AD 1500, by Matthew Bennett, Jim Bradbury, Kelly DeVries, Iain Dickie, Phyllis Jestice.
• The Renaissance by Will Durant. A classic macrohistory. Used copies are available for as little as $0.58.
• Napoleon Bonaparte: A Life, by Alan Schom.
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Old 01-22-2007, 07:55 AM
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Another one of my favorites is Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Biography by Marion Meade.
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Old 01-22-2007, 08:01 AM
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Anything by Frances and Joseph Gies is good such as This book They have a wonderfully clear and relevant writing style that provides a very readable narrative while still getting the point across.

For Napoleonic history, try Looking up Rory Muir, Digby Smith or Phillip J. Haythornthwaite. Their focus seems to be mainly millitary, however.

An excellent basic primer on Napoleonic warfare

Another good one

Last edited by Hypno-Toad; 01-22-2007 at 08:02 AM.
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Old 01-22-2007, 08:04 AM
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Following on from the Cadfael suggestion, may I recommend two highly enjoyable fiction series that are meticulously researched:

George McDonald Fraser's 'Flashman' series

'The first instalment of the Flashman Papers sees the fag-roasting rotter from Tom Brown's Schooldays commence his military career as a reluctant secret agent in Afghanistan. Expelled from Rugby for drunkenness, and none too welcome at home after seducing his father's mistress, the young Flashman embarks on a military career with Lord Cardigan's Hussars. En route to Afghanistan, our hero hones his skills as a soldier, duellist, imposter, coward and amorist (mastering all 97 ways of Hindu love-making during a brief sojourn in Calcutta), before being pressed into reluctant service as a secret agent. His Afghan adventures culminate in a starring role in that great historic disaster, the Retreat from Kabul.'

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Flashman-Pap...e=UTF8&s=books

C.S. Forester's 'Hornblower' series

'Mr. Midshipman Hornblower is the prequel to the Horatio Hornblower series. Written as the sixth book chronologically, it covers the very first times when Hornblower served in His Majesty's navy. My recommendation is that you read it first, so that you can follow Hornblower chronologically along over his career as it develops.
Since much of service aboard a naval vessel is routine, C.S. Forester gives us the high spots of Hornblower's first years in the form of short stories beginning at age 17 when he entered the navy.
Each story is nicely balanced among the following qualities: Hornblower's inexperience; the rapid shift of circumstances that can occur at sea; Hornblower's physical and psychological weaknesses and courage to overcome them; the demands of honor; the importance of thinking clearly, getting good information, and making a swift decision; the benefits of discipline; and the brotherhood of all seaman before the dangers they face.
Those who are interested in the war between Britain and France after the French Revolution in 1789 will find the material to bring those events to life in a vivid way. I learned a lot about the details of naval warfare as it was conducted then.'

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Young-Hornbl...e=UTF8&s=books
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Old 01-22-2007, 08:24 AM
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Here's yet another vote for A Distant Mirror. Here are three other good titles:

Amy Kelly, Eleanor of Acquitaine and the Three Kings

William Manchester, A World Lit Only by Fire: the Medieval Mind and the Renaissance

Fiona MacDonald, How Would You Survive in the Middle Ages?
  #16  
Old 01-22-2007, 08:26 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eenerms
Sharon Kay Penmen's books about Richard 3, Llewellyan the Great, King John are pretty good reads. But they are fiction based on historical facts.
*reads the OP*

with an 800-page historical novel
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Old 01-22-2007, 08:39 AM
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I'm digging Terry Jones Medieval Lives right now. Fascinating read, with a dash of humor. Or, rather, humour.

Last edited by Hugh Jass; 01-22-2007 at 08:41 AM. Reason: changed link from Terry Jones Medieval Lives to just plain Medieval Lives. It isn't about Terry's Medieval Lives, you see.
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Old 01-22-2007, 08:47 AM
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Another vote for Tuchman's A Distant Mirror. Good stuff, well-researched and interestingly-told.

Michael Crichton's Timeline is a decent novel set (through the high-tech wonders of time travel) in France during the medieval period. Drawing upon recent scholarship, Crichton argues that Western Europe was a much more dynamic place - socially, politically, economically, technologically - than we usually think.
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Old 01-22-2007, 11:38 AM
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geez, I was going to recommend A Distant Mirror. Now I get to, what, TENTH it?

It's the one to get, alrighty.
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Old 01-22-2007, 03:47 PM
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In The Beginning: The Story of the King James Bible and How It Changed a Nation, a Language, and a Culture - Alister McGrath

Success Is Never Final: Empire, War and Faith in Early Modern Europe - Geoffrey Parker

The Scents of Eden: A History of the Spice Trade - Charles Corn

Gold & Spice: The Rise of Commerce in the Middle Ages - Jean Favier

The Final Act: The Road to Waterloo - Gregor Dallas

Europe at Home: Family and Material Culture 1500-1800 - Raffaella Sarti


All of these are well-written and delve into areas not greatly covered by standard texts.
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Old 01-22-2007, 04:47 PM
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Thank you for all the suggestions. I've put a lot of them on my wishlist and will start ordering some. I'm already ordering "A Distant Mirror."

Once again, thanks to all of you.
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Old 01-23-2007, 09:37 AM
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I think I may pick up a few of these as well.

God, I'm already so far behind in my history reading...
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Old 01-23-2007, 11:10 AM
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I'm going to add another nomination for A Distant Mirror, even though it appears you're already ordering it. I came into this thread to mention it, and was not particularly surprised that the very first recommendation was for that book.

As an alternative, I recommend Agincourt: Henry V and the Battle That Made England, by Juliet Barker. It was released in 2006 so not a lot of people may be aware of it yet.
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Old 01-23-2007, 12:30 PM
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Old 01-23-2007, 02:58 PM
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I'll second Hypno-Toad's recommendation of work by Frances and Joseph Gies. I like Women in the Middle Ages and Marriage and Family in the Middle Ages. The Knight, the Lady, and the Priest by Georges Duby is another good book that deals with marriage and private life in medieval France.
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Old 01-23-2007, 03:54 PM
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Don't forget about Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose if you like your historical fiction historical with a heavy dash of semiotics. Another fascinating (and rather short) non-fiction book is Carlo Ginzburg's The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth-Century Miller.
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Old 01-23-2007, 11:29 PM
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Quote:
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Don't forget about Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose....
Ooh, another good one. A dense read, but worth the effort.

BTW, if you want fictionalized pre-history, Clan of the Cave Bear is good. I think the author did an excellent job of researching the lifestyles of her subjects. Do not, under any circumstances, read any of the sequels, unless you find a copy with everything redacted but basket-making.
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Old 01-24-2007, 02:16 PM
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It was nice to see works by Carlo Ginzburg and Geoffrey Parker already cited. Dr. Parker, who was my advisor, is the finest academic I have ever met and is tremendously gracious and accomodating. I enjoy most everything he has written. Depending upon what period you're interested in, you might also look at his edited work, The Thirty Years' War.

Similar to Ginzburg, I would suggest Natalie Z. Davis's microhistory, The Return of Martin Guerre which has the added advantage of having been made into a reasonably accurate and enjoyable film.

For the military of France after the revolution two works are particularly good:

John Lynn, The Bayonets of the Republic and Gunther Rothenburg, The Art of Warfare in the Age of Napoleon. Good luck.
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Old 01-24-2007, 02:42 PM
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A good history of the French Revolution is Simon Schama's "Citizens".
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