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Books Features

New Medieval Books: From Swindlers to Swords

Five new books about the Middle Ages, telling stories that take us from Aquitaine to Baghdad.

Murder during the Hundred Years’ War: The Curious Case of William Cantilupe

By Melissa Julian-Jones

Pen & Sword History
ISBN: 978 1 52675 079 2

Excerpt: Considering the various motives for murder and alternative interpretations of the events of 1375, the following chapters will explore who Sir William was, his family context and what it meant to be a man of his social standing, and look at who benefited from his desk. Each motive – money, sex, revenge, jealousy – offers ways to consider the society in which he lived, with examples of comparable crimes. These will be considered in their own chapters, allowing for a much fuller consideration of the evidence then has been applied to the material to date, and a consideration of the trial and its aftermath for the people concerned.

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The Book of Charlatans, by Jamal al-Din ‘Abd al-Rahim al-Jawbari

Translated by Humphrey Davies

New York University Press
ISBN: 978149897636

Excerpt: Written in the mid-seventh / -thirteenth century, The Book of Charlatans describes a wide range of beggars’ and charlatans’ groups, with examples of their various tricks, and portrays the mentality and morals of this secret subculture. It thus provides a sketch of the social reality of the professions of begging and swindling, making The Book of Charlatans one of the most important literary representations of underworld customs in medieval Islamic civilization. Al-Jawbari recorded unique aspects of the charlatans’ milieu with the eyes and knowledge of an intimate, opening a window onto the daily life of the medieval Islamic underworld that would otherwise be effectively close to us, as these are rarely described in other historical sources.

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The Vikings in Aquitaine: A Missing Piece of the Invasions

By Joel Supery

Editions Tuskaland

Excerpt: In 841, the Empire, divided, unstable, driven by diverging forces, was on the verge of chaos. A gigantic battle was on the brew. On one side, Lothar the new emperor, and his nephew Pepin II of Aquitaine defended the sharing of 817, on the other, Louie the Germanic and his half-brother, Charles the Bald, King of Neustria and Aquitaine, applied the last wishes of their father, a man whose political intelligence was his wife’s, Judith. It was in this explosive context that the first Viking attack in France took place. This attack heralded the first Viking war.

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The Christian Jew and the Unmarked Jewess: The Polemics of Sameness in Medieval English Anti-Judaism

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By Adrienne Williams Boyarin

University of Pennsylvania Press
ISBN: 978-0-8122-5259-0

Excerpt: Many studies of medieval anti-Jewish texts and images in recent decades have discussed difference. This book is concerned, instead, with realities and fantasies of sameness. Examining texts produced before and in the wake of the 1290 Expulsion of the Jews from England, and in application to representations of both the Jew and the Jewess, it focuses on the means by which medieval Christians could identify with Jews and even think of themselves as Jewish. While this is fundamentally a book about anti-Judaism, then, it seeks to elucidate in a central and underexplored part of the rhetoric employed in anti-Jewish materials, what I call “polemics of sameness”.

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Living by the Sword: Weapons and Material Culture in France and Britain, 600-1600

By Kristen B. Neuschel

Cornell University Press
ISBN: 9781501752124

Excerpt: I wrote this book to solve a problem the archives handed me regarding the material culture of warrior life in sixteenth-century Europe. It was possible that swords could be imagined, almost simultaneously, as workaday weapons, as jewel-like accessories, and as quasi-mystic objects from a distant and heroic past. Certainly, it was possible, but how? What might we need to know about elites’ material circumstances, their dependence on swords in practice and Imagination, and so on? How do we set aside our own myths regarding swords, and are condescending assumptions about the past actors’ credulousness?

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