Books Features

Ten Books about the Middle Ages you can read for free

Over the last year or so more books in the field of medieval studies have been released as Open Access – meaning that you can freely download and read right now. Here are ten of those books – enjoy!

Beowulf by All: Community Translation and Workbook

Edited by Jean Abbott, Elaine Treharne and Mateusz Fafinski
Arc Humanities Press

Beowulf By All is the first ever community translation of the poem known as Beowulf, and is published here for the first time in workbook form as Beowulf By All: Community Translation and Workbook in order to provide space and an added incentive for readers to assemble their own working translations alongside this one.


Click here to read this book from the Database of Open Access Books

Religious Horror and Holy War in Viking Age Francia

By Matthew Bryan Gillis
Trivent Publishing

Religious Horror and Holy War in Viking Age Francia explores how authorities in western Francia used horror rhetoric to cast Christian soldiers, who robbed the poor and the church, as monsters that devoured human flesh and drank human blood. Adapting modern literary horror approaches to medieval sources, this study reveals how such rhetoric served as a form of spiritual weaponry in the clergy’s attempts to correct and condemn wayward military men. This investigation, therefore, unearths long-forgotten Carolingian thought about the dreadful spiritual reality of internal enemies during a time of political division and the Northmen’s depredations. Yet such horror also informed a new understanding of Christian heroism that developed in relation to the wars fought against the invaders.

Click here to read this book from Trivent Publishing

Everyday Cosmopolitanisms: Living the Silk Road in Medieval Armenia

By Kate Franklin
University of California Press

Widely studied and hotly debated, the Silk Road is often viewed as a precursor to contemporary globalization, the merchants who traversed it as early agents of cultural exchange. Missing are the lives of the ordinary people who inhabited the route and contributed as much to its development as their itinerant counterparts. In this book, Kate Franklin takes the highlands of medieval Armenia as a compelling case study for examining how early globalization and everyday life intertwined along the Silk Road. She argues that Armenia—and the Silk Road itself—consisted of the overlapping worlds created by a diverse assortment of people: not only long-distance travelers but also the local rulers and subjects who lived in Armenia’s mountain valleys and along its highways.


Click here to read this book from DeGruyter

Municipal Magdeburg Law (Ius municipale Magdeburgense) in Late Medieval Poland: A Study on the Evolution and Adaptation of Law

By  Maciej Mikuła

In this volume, Maciej Mikuła analyses the extant texts of the Ius municipale Magdeburgense, the most important collection of Magdeburg Law in late medieval Poland. He discusses the different translation traditions of the collection; the application of Magdeburg Law in cities; how differences between the versions could affect the application of the rights; and how the invention of printing influenced the principle of legal certainty. Mikuła ultimately shows that the differences between the texts not only influenced legal practice, but also bear out how complex the process was of the adaptation of Magdeburg Law.

Click here to read this book from Brill

The Saga of Þórður kakali: The Icelandic Text, with an English Translation

By D.M. White
Punctum Books

The Old Icelandic text The Saga of Þórður kakali survives today as part of the fourteenth-century compilation The Saga of the Sturlungar. In extant form, The Saga of Þórður kakali is a biography of Þórður kakali Sighvatsson (c.1210–56) – chieftain, royal retainer, and sheriff – and covers the periods 1242–50 and 1254–56, providing an interesting view of power politics and political culture from the periphery of medieval Europe, challenging dominant historiographical narratives derived from the sources produced at the center.

Click here to read this book from Punctum Books

Medieval Communities and the Mad: Narratives of Crime and Mental Illness in Late Medieval France

By Aleksandra Pfau
Amsterdam University Press

The concept of madness as a challenge to communities lies at the core of legal sources. Medieval Communities and the Mad: Narratives of Crime and Mental Illness in Late Medieval France considers how communal networks, ranging from the locale to the realm, responded to people who were considered mad. The madness of individuals played a role in engaging communities with legal mechanisms and proto-national identity constructs, as petitioners sought the king’s mercy as an alternative to local justice. The resulting narratives about the mentally ill in late medieval France constructed madness as an inability to live according to communal rules.

Click here to read this book from Jstor

Tracing the Jerusalem Code, Volume 1: The Holy City Christian Cultures in Medieval Scandinavia (ca. 1100–1536)

Edited by Kristin B. Aavitsland and Line M. Bonde

With the aim to write the history of Christianity in Scandinavia with Jerusalem as a lens, this book investigates the image – or rather the imagination – of Jerusalem in the religious, political, and artistic cultures of Scandinavia through most of the second millennium. Jerusalem is conceived as a code to Christian cultures in Scandinavia. The first volume is dealing with the different notions of Jerusalem in the Middle Ages.


Click here to read this book from DeGruyter

Early Printed Music and Material Culture in Central and Western Europe

Edited By Andrea Lindmayr-Brandl, Grantley McDonald

This book presents a varied and nuanced analysis of the dynamics of the printing, publication, and trade of music in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries across Western and Northern Europe. Chapters consider dimensions of music printing in Britain, the Holy Roman Empire, the Netherlands, France, Spain and Italy, showing how this area of inquiry can engage a wide range of cultural, historical and theoretical issues. From the economic consequences of the international book trade to the history of women music printers, the contributors explore the nuances of the interrelation between the materiality of print music and cultural, aesthetic, religious, legal, gender and economic history.

Click here to read this book from Taylor and Francis

Armies and Ecosystems in Premodern Europe: The Meuse Region, 1250-1850

By Sander Govaerts
Arc Humanities Press

Using the ecosystem concept as his starting point, the author examines the complex relationship between premodern armed forces and their environment at three levels: landscapes, living beings, and diseases. The study focuses on Europe’s Meuse Region, well-known among historians of war as a battleground between France and Germany. By analyzing soldiers’ long-term interactions with nature, this book engages with current debates about the ecological impact of the military, and provides new impetus for contemporary armed forces to make greater effort to reduce their environmental footprint.

Click here to read this book from the Database of Open Access Books

The Pechenegs: Nomads in the Political and Cultural Landscape of Medieval Europe

By Aleksander Paroń

In The Pechenegs: Nomads in the Political and Cultural Landscape of Medieval Europe, Aleksander Paroń offers a reflection on the history of the Pechenegs, a nomadic people which came to control the Black Sea steppe by the end of the ninth century. Nomadic peoples have often been presented in European historiography as aggressors and destroyers whose appearance led to only chaotic decline and economic stagnation. Making use of historical and archaeological sources along with abundant comparative material, Aleksander Paroń offers here a multifaceted and cogent image of the nomads’ relations with neighboring political and cultural communities in the tenth and eleventh centuries.


Click here to read this book from Brill

You can find more books that you can read for free at the Directory of Open Access Books

See also our list of Open Access Books from 2020