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Medieval Resources – Weaving History into Your Novel

The following is a list of medieval resources I have used while writing my novel. This list does not include all the medieval history books I’ve read, not even all the books I have in my library, it’s simply a small selection of the books I feel have been most beneficial throughout the process. Any other suggestions of medieval non-fiction books to read are much appreciated. I’ve included the name of the book and a brief summary describing it. I pulled the summaries from Google Book Search results or from the books’ back covers.

  • Daily Life in the Middle Ages by Paul B. Newman – Although life in the Middle Ages was not as comfortable and safe as it is for most people in industrialized countries today, the term “Dark Ages” is highly misleading. The era was not so primitive and crude as depictions in film and literature would suggest. Even during the worst years of the centuries immediately following the fall of Rome, the legacy of that civilization survived. This book covers diet, cooking, housing, building, clothing, hygiene, games and other pastimes, fighting and healing in medieval times. The reader will find numerous misperceptions corrected. The book also includes a comprehensive bibliography and a listing of collections of medieval art and artifacts and related sites across the United States and Canada so that readers in North America can see for themselves some of the matters discussed in the book.
  • The Medieval Fortress: Castles, Forts and Walled Cities of the Middle Ages By J. E. Kaufmann, H. W. Kaufmann -The great walled castles of the medieval world continue to fascinate the modern world. Today, the remains of medieval forts and walls throughout Europe are popular tourist sites. Unlike many other books on castles, The Medieval Fortress is unique in its comprehensive treatment of these architectural wonders from a military perspective. The Medieval Fortress includes an analysis of the origins and evolution of castles and other walled defenses, a detailed description of their major components, and the reasons for their eventual decline. The authors, acclaimed fortification experts J.E. and H.W. Kaufmann, explain how the military strategies and weapons used in the Middle Ages led to many modifications of these structures. All of the representative types of castles and fortifications are discussed, from the British Isles, Ireland, France, Germany, Moorish Spain, Italy, as far east as Poland and Russia, as well as Muslim and Crusader castles in the Middle East. Over 200 photographs and 300 extraordinarily detailed technical drawings, plans, and sketches by Robert M. Jurga accompany and enrich the main text.
  • Life in a Medieval City by Joseph and Francis Gies – Life in a Medieval City evokes every aspect of life in the Middle Ages by depicting in detail what it was like to live in a prosperous city of Northwest Europe in the 12th and 13th centuries.
  • Life in a Medieval Castle by Joseph and Francis Gies – “The authors allow medieval man and woman to speak for themselves through selections from past journals, songs, even account books.”– “Time”
  • Life in a Medieval Village by Joseph and Francis Gies – A lively, detailed picture of village life in the Middle Ages
  • Medieval Siege Warfare By Christopher Gravett – During the Middle Ages siege warfare played a vital role in military strategy. Sieges were far more numerous than pitched battles, ranging from small-scale affairs against palisaded earthworks to full-scale assaults on vast strongholds. Needless to say, the art of siege warfare assumed a unique importance to both invader and defender alike. In this title Christopher Gravett explores the different aspects of medieval siege warfare, from chivalrous formalities to ‘surprise and treachery’, in a text backed by numerous illustrations including 12 full page colour plates by Richard and Christa Hook.
  • Art of War in the Middle Ages A. D. 378-1515 by C. W. C. Oman – This book covers the entire period of medieval history and looks at the distinct fighting styles and tactics of various groups including the English, the Franks, and the Swiss.
  • The Story of the Middle Ages, 5 Volume Set: The Birth of the Middle Ages / The Crucible of the Middle Ages / The Making of the Middle Ages / The High Middle Ages / The Waning of the Middle Ages by H. St. L. B. Moss (Author), Geoffrey Barraclough (Author), R. W. Southern (Author), John Mundy (Author), Johan Huizinga (Author) – This collection provides a great overview of the entire medieval period, starting with the fall of Rome and ending with the decline of the castle.

I am constantly trying to learn about the Middle Ages. I read as much as I can, watch documentaries — I have my Tivo set up to record anything that airs with the terms “Middle Ages” or “Medieval” — I listen to podcasts, and I talk with other knowledgable people about the subject. It’s important to inundate yourself with your subject and keep it fresh on your mind.

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