Five new books about the Middle Ages, including two translated texts.
History of the Tartars: Flower of the Histories of the East, by Het’um the Historian
Translated by Robert Bedrosian
Excerpt: If Marco Polo’s aim was to write an entertaining best-seller, Het’um’s aim was to start a war. There is no fantasy in Het’um’s history. In the geographical section he describes the countries’ borders, major cities, rivers, mountains, agriculture, exports, religions, and military capabilities. The historical portions (Books II and III) which are remarkable for their breadth, are generally accurate, though Het’um’s occasionally conflates similar battles fought in the same area, or similar legends, and occasionally, though rarely, is off a year or two in dating events. His shrewd and detailed plans battle plans in Book IV contain estimates of required troops and materiel; while the preconditions for starting any war, which he lays out in chapter 49, are still valid today. As Het’um had fought Muslim powers diplomatically and on the battlefield for most of his adult life, his work is characterized by hatred and denigration of Islam and shows a concomitant to emphasize or emphasized Christian currents among the Mongols. This latter, perhaps, was a deliberate exaggeration to further interest or influence Pope Clement V, at whose request the work was written.
On Warfare and the Threefold Path of the Jerusalem Pilgrimage: A Translation of Ralph Niger’s De Re Militari et Triplici Via Peregrinationis Ierosolitmate
Translated by John D. Cotts
Excerpt: And almost exactly the same time, but perhaps a little bit later, a relatively obscure English scholar named Ralph Niger agreed that the fall of Jerusalem was a catastrophe that required a penitential response, they came to radically different conclusions in the word translated here: On Warfare and the Threefold Path of the Jerusalem Pilgrimage (Latin: De Re Militari et Triplici Via Peregrinationis Ierosolitmate). Yes, the king was captured, the bishops and knights slaughtered, and the True Crossed was seized. Yes, the sins of Christendom was to blame for the crisis, and penitential pilgrimages were necessary to resolve it. In contrast to his fellow clerics, however, Ralph argued that these pilgrimages can be undertaken privately at home, just as well as openly and in public. A military expedition was not necessary for true penance, and could be both physically and spiritually dangerous. In any case, Christian knights should probably not embark. Throughout the four books of On Warfare, Ralph builds a powerful case that travelling to Palestine to kill Muslims would do little solve to the problems of individual Christian souls, or the Latin West in general.
Welsh Castle Builders: The Savoyard Style
By John Marshall
Pen and Sword History
ISBN: 978 1 39908 548 9
Excerpt: What is certain is that Edward saw the architecture, since he hired its builder. If Edward was to encircle Wales, in the way that Caesar had castrated Vercingetorix with wooden walls at Alesia, then he would now need stone walls, he would need castles. If ever there is a single testimony to Edward’s thorough, ruthless, determined approach to the age-old English problems in Wales then it is the massive castles constructed there. In the winter of 1277, the call went from England to Savoy, the King of England required the services of the Count of Savoy’s builder of castles.
The Islamization of the Holy Land, 634-1800
By Michael Ehrlich
ARC Humanities Press
Excerpt: The aim of this book is to answer three basic questions: when, where, and under what circumstances did the majority of the Holy Land’s population become Muslim? Its working hypothesis is that the cause that led to the conversion of most of the Holy Land’s population, as well as the survival of some religious communities, are essentially social and geographic in nature rather than theological. Namely, conditions in some regions facilitate conversion, whereas in other areas they did not. Consequently, local communities in those areas resisted conversion more vigorously. This book does not deal with issues such as economic or social pressure exerted by Muslim authorities. Those measures were presumably imposed indiscriminately on all religious communities, in all regions, and in rural areas as well as urban ones.
Medieval English Manuscripts and Literary Forms
By Jessica Brantley
University of Pennsylvania Press
Excerpt: With illustrative examples from a range of significant collections, Medieval English Manuscripts and Literary Forms offers a broad survey of the material forms of literary manuscripts and their cultural histories. It includes a guide to interpreting the physical parts of a medieval book, as well as a number of case studies particularly important and representative examples of medieval literature in manuscript form.