Five new books about the Middle Ages, which tell us about people big and small.
By Amy Jeffs
ISBN: 978 1 529407 976
Excerpt: The tales to come or gilded by the rays of the setting sun. Written down and recited in a territory once believed to be at the westernmost edge of the world, their audiences also held themselves to be the last to witness the end of each day. To live in Britain then was to possess an edginess, a brinkhood, unknown to the great eastern citizens whose homes occupied the centre of the map. Yet myths drew threads across the globe and across time. The idea of Britain, what it was and where it came from, its connections to distant lands, and its own native qualities, fascinated its inhabitants then as it does now. Accounting for the mysteries of its coincidences of place and people produced The wondrous myths and legends that you are about to read: from stories of warlike giants and necromancers to the familiar adventures of Arthur, Merlin and King Lear. For centuries these tales molded perceptions of Britishness. They still do, even if many have been forgotten.
— Dr Amy Jeffs (@amy_historia) November 16, 2021
By Robert Bartlett
Cambridge University Press
Excerpt: For a dynasty to survive, it has to reproduce. by the eleventh century, in most parts of western Europe, for the ruling families, reproduction meant marriage as defined by the Church. A king was expected to have one wife at a time, marriage could be ended only by death or in very precise circumstances laid down by the Church, and only offspring of these sanctified monogamous marriages were legitimate. Earlier, more casual, arrangements had been replaced or marginalized. So, for these ruling families, formal marriages were an essential part of their strategy and hence a never-ending subject of debate, discussion and disagreement. Sometimes this even involved babies being committed to future brides or bridegrooms. The first step, logically, was for a wife to be found for the king or future king.
By Monika E. Simon
Pen and Sword
ISBN: 978 1 52675 107 2
Excerpt: The long Invincible history of the Lovells of Titchmarsh is well worth studying. Over half a millennium, members of his family participated in a surprisingly large number of pivotal events, crusades, battles, sieges, and revolutions. Though they are not usually found in a leading role, they are representatives of the majority of noble families in this era. Like their peers, the Lovells accumulated wealth and power in the form of ever-growing estates in the influence that went with it over the centuries. They were rulers of their estates, participated in his administration of the localities in which their lands were situated, and served as a conduit between the central government and the localities.
By Ionut Epurescu-Pascovici
The Boydell Press
ISBN: 978 1 78327 576 2
Excerpt: The aim of this book is to understand what is meant to be an individual agent in Western European Society c.1100-1450 – a question that has rarely been at the centre of historical exploration, and then almost exclusively for intellectual and political elites. In part this is because agency comprises a range of issues that are hard to document from the pre-modern evidence. To study agency is to follow an individual in his or her interactions with others and engagement with norms, ideas, and beliefs – in other words, to study the individual in relation to society and culture.
By Justine Firnhaber-Baker
Oxford University Press
Excerpt: At the end of May 1358, as summer approached and people prepared to celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi, thousands of French villagers revolted. In the Île-de- France north of Paris, Normandy to its west, Picardy and Champagne to its east, and further afield, they attacked the nobility’s castles and manor houses, burning them down and destroying or stealing their contents. They killed noblemen and assaulted their families. According to some reports, they even killed noble children and gang-raped noblewomen, murdering some pregnant ones. On 10 June at the eastern city of Meaux, they allied with urban commoners and troops from Paris, itself in rebellion against the crown, in order to attack a castle on the Marne River that was sheltering nobles, among them the Dauphin’s wife and baby.
— Dr J. Firnhaber-Baker (@mediaevalrevolt) March 5, 2021