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New Medieval Books: From the Monastery to the Sea

Five books about the medieval world for your consideration.

The Ruler’s Guide: China’s Greatest Emperor and His Timeless Secrets of Success

By Chinghua Tang

Scribner
ISBN: 978-1-5011-3877-5

Excerpt: The Tang dynasty, one of the longest dynasties in Chines history (618-907), is hailed by historians as China’s golden age. It didn’t come by chance. It owed much to the conscious efforts of its co-founder, Emperor Taizong… This book brings Taizong’s wisdom to a western audience for the first time – wisdom that has been studied and proved for more than a thousand years. In the pages that follow, records of the emperor’s conversation with his ministers are selected and organized under twelve topics. They represent the choicest part of this anthology. Following that is a profile that sketches Taizong’s extraordinary life and character. In the secrets of the Tang dynasty’s success, you’ll find the secrets of all great, long-lasting enterprises.

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Dark Age Nunneries: The Ambiguous Identity of Female Monasticism, 800-1050

By Steven Vanderputten

Cornell University Press
ISBN: 97814017159152

Excerpt: With this study I hope to tell a more nuanced story, where the testimony of the primary evidence takes precedence over established scholarly accounts. It is a story, moreover, that dismantles the view of women religious in this period as the disempowered, at times even disinterested, witnesses to their own lives. As a running thread throughout the discussion, I highlighted their attempts (and those of the clerics and the laymen and laywomen sympathetic to their cause) to construct localized narratives of self, nurture mutually beneficial relations with their social environment, and remain involved in shaping the attitudes and behaviours of the laity generally. In the following argument, the resulting multi-formity in the sister’ experience of monastic life takes center stage.

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The World of the Newport Medieval Ship: Trade, Politics and Shipping in the Mid-Fifteenth Century

Edited by Evan T. Jones and Richard Stone

University of Wales Press
ISBN: 978-1-78683-263-4

Excerpt: The Newport Medieval Ship is the best-preserved late medieval vessel yet discovered. Built c.1450 in northern Spain, it was abandoned twenty years later while undergoing repairs in an inlet off the River Usk, on the southern edge of the town. Since the ship’s recovery in 2002, archaeological investigations of its timbers and associated artefacts have revealed much about the shipping technology of the period.

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Illuminated History Books in the Anglo-Norman World, 1066-1272

By Laura Cleaver

Oxford University Press
ISBN: 978-0-19-880262-4

Excerpt: This study does not attempt to be an exhaustive account of every manuscript on a historical subject produced in the period. Instead, it approaches the material through the lens of the processes of production involved in the creation of books, to explore how they were made and what they represented to contemporaries. This introduction is designed to provide some general orientation for what follows by exploring the related questions of what the makers of medieval histories claimed they were trying to achieve, how the books survived, and some of the approaches that have been taken to their study.

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Sea of the Caliphs: The Mediterranean in the Medieval Islamic World

By Christopher Picard, translated by Nicholas Elliot

The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press
ISBN: 9780674660465

Excerpt: The accepted version of the sea’s medieval history holds that before the tenth century, Muslim expansion on “the Sea of the Romans”,  as it was referred to by the Arabs, was limited to piracy; that only the Fatamids and the caliphs of Cordoba took the initiative of developing economic and military activity on the sea; and that, with the exception of the Almohad caliphs of Marrakech (1147-1269), Muslim authorities turned away from a sea now dominated by the great Latin ports. This version of history has generally been elaborated from a chronology imposed by the legacy of historical works on the Latin world, whose tools of evaluation were those of economic measurement, based on figures totally deficient before the eleventh-century.

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