Books Features

New Medieval Books: War, Politics and Beauty

From battles and wars to manuscripts and castles, here are five medieval books to explore.

How to Plan a Crusade: Religious War in the High Middle Ages

By Christopher Tyerman

Pegasus Books
ISBN: 9781681775241

Excerpt: This book is about how crusades were planned and organized, the application of reason to religious warfare. The culture of western Europe in the Middle Ages rested on the twin pillars of reason and religion. From the speculations of the learned and the politics of the ruling elites to the daily common puzzling at the point of existence or the problems of actually coping with the material world, faith informed behaviour and action while reason tried to explain why the supernatural made sense. Nothing illustrates this relationship more sharply than the history of the crusades.

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Queens of the Conquest: England’s Medieval Queens, Volume 1: 1066-1167

By Alison Weir

Jonathan Cape
ISBN: 978-1101966662

Excerpt: The saga of England’s medieval queens is vivid and stirring, packed with tragedy, high drama and even comedy.  It is a chronicle of love, passion, intrigue, murder, war, treason, betrayal and sorrow, peopled by a cast of heroines, villains, Amazons, stateswomen, adulteresses and lovers. Much, of course, is obscured by time and a paucity of detail – and yet enough survives to reconstruct a dramatic tale. My aim in this book is to piece together the fragments, strip away centuries of romantic mythology and legends that obscure the truth about these queens, and delve beyond the medieval prejudice, credulity and superstition in contemporary sources to achieve a more balanced and authentic view.

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To Win and Lose a Medieval Battle: Najera (April 3, 1367), a Pyrrhic Victory for the Black Prince

By L.J. Andrew Villalon and Donald J. Kagay

ISBN: 9789004343177

Excerpt: On April 3, 1367, as the sun rose over northern Spain, two of the century’s largest armies stood poised, facing one another across what man present characterized as “a fair and beauteous plain, whereon was neither bush nor tree for a full league round. Here, near a point where the borders of three medieval Iberian kingdoms – Castile, Navarre, and Crown of Aragon – came together, thousands of men awaited a signal that would propel them into one of the century’s largest, albeit most lopsided battles.

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Sacred Landscapes: Nature in Renaissance Manuscripts

By Bryan C. Keene and Alexandra Kaczenski

J. Paul Getty Museum
ISBN 978-1-60606-546-4

Excerpt: During the Renaissance, European artists painted spiritually uplifting landscapes to exhilarate viewers and enhance religious experience. This volume presents some of the most impressive examples of this art, gathering a wide range of illuminated manuscripts made between 1400 and 1600, as well as a panel paintings, drawings, and decorative arts, primarily selected from the permanent collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum.

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Lived Experiences in the Later Middle Ages: Studies of Bodiam and Other Elite Landscapes in South-Eastern England

Edited by Matthew Johnson

Highfield Press
ISBN: 9780992633660

Excerpt: This edited volume reports on and discusses the work of a team of scholars from Northwestern University and the University of Southampton. The team was led by myself, and the work conducted in partnership with the National Trust. Between 2010 and 2014, different members of the group carried out topographical, geophysical and building survey at four different medieval sites in south-eastern England, all owned and managed by the Trust: Bodiam, Scotney, Knole and Ightham. Different members of the team also undertook research intro documentary, map and other evidence. A particularly important element of the research was to synthesise and re-present the ‘grey literature’ of all four sites.

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