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New Medieval Books: Monks and Mongols

Five newly published books, that take us from a tenth-century monastery to a physician in thirteenth-century Egypt.

1066: A Guide to the Battles and Campaigns

By Michael Livingston and Kelly DeVries

Pen and Sword Books
ISBN: 978 1 52675 197 3

Excerpt: This book is is a guide to the events leading up to that marker, the historical crossroads of Harold’s death and William’s victory as it unfolded more than 950 years ago. It is a guide to the present ground, following in the footsteps of Harold’s and William’s campaigns from the sources available to us – including that portion of the Norman Conquest that is so carefully sewn into one of the most famous artefacts of the Middle Ages: the Bayeux Tapestry. It is the story of two great men, who in coming together in this place, in this battle, would change the history of England. And with England, the world.

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Fortune and Misfortune at Saint Gall

By Ekkehard IV, translated by Emily Albu and Natalia Lozovsky

Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library/Harvard University Press
ISBN:978-0-674-25146-5

Excerpt: At the suggestion of the brothers of my community, who thought it would be worthwhile to record some of the fortunate and fortunate events that happened at the monastery of Saint Gall and Saint Otmar, I have embarked on this difficult task. However, I do not doubt that I am exposing myself to opprobrium, for such are the ways of our times that if you touch upon a thorny subject, especially something concerning discipline, and if you seem not to praise the freedoms and lack of restraint of the wicked, you will be held to a fraud and a slanderer by those who walk in levity. Nevertheless, since other people have related with unsparing truthfulness what took place at our monastery, events of whatever kind – fortunate or unfortunate – I will try, with the same zeal as they have shown in adhering to the truth to the fullest extent possible for pen and ink, to set out with an unsparing regard for the truth what I have heard from the fathers about the fortunate and unfortunate events that occurred at our monastery.

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The Llanthony Stories: A translation of the Narrationes aliquot fabulosae

By David R. Winter

Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies
ISBN: 9780888443090

Excerpt: This collection, then, is an important and hitherto little noticed witness to the ecclesiastical and public life in the Welsh Marches in the decades bracketing 1200. While it does not alter the ‘grand narrative’ to any appreciable extent, it nevertheless offers details and insights into the lives of public figures and the operation of institutions that remain otherwise unavailable. Taken together, The Llanthony Stories also provide us with a remarkable view of the extent to which a well-connected but cloistered observer was able to acquire (and retail) news from his immediate neighbourhood as well as further afield. Indeed, the occasionally gossipy tone of the text is one of its great pleasures for the modern reader.

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Along the Silk Roads in Mongol Eurasia: Generals, Merchants, and Intellectuals

Edited by Michal Biran, Jonathan Brack and Francesca Fiashetti

University of California Press
ISBN: 9780520298750

Excerpt: The chapters in this volume seek to illustrate life along the Mongol Silk Roads by focusing on the stories of male and female individuals of three elite groups from across Mongol Eurasia: military commanders, merchants, and intellectuals. These people came from diverse backgrounds and ethnic groups. They included Mongols, Chinese, Muslims, Qipchaqs, and Europeans. Their personal experiences elucidate aspects of Eurasian cross-cultural contact and physical and social mobility, beginning with the formative years of Chinggis Khan (r.1206-1227) and ending with the empire’s collapse during the second half of the fourteenth century.

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A Physician on the Nile: A Description of Egypt and Journal of the Famine Years

By ‘Abd al-Latif al-Baghdadi, translated by Tim Mackintosh-Smith

New York University Press
ISBN: 9781479806249

Excerpt: This book is a report on Egypt, written there in 600/1204 by ‘Abd al-Latif al-Baghdadi for the Abbasid caliph in Iraq, and entitled in the original The Book of Edification and Admonition: Things Eye-Witnessed and Events Personally Observed in the Land of Egypt. It beings as a descriptive geography but goes much further and becomes – as a contemporary biographer of the author puts it – “a book that stupifies the intellect,” that is, “a book that blows the mind.”

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